Lake Hopatcong Water Levels Under Dispute

By Ed Rodgers

Environmentalists oppose the Department of Environmental Protection’s plan to adjust Lake Hopatcong’s water levels by holding water back.  They believe the environmental impact of DEP’s plan has not been thoroughly studied.

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One Response to Lake Hopatcong Water Levels Under Dispute

  1. John Kurzman says:

    It is disappointing, however, and telling, that the broadcast about the Lake Hopatcong Water Level Management Plan was not based at Lake Hopatcong, but based in Asbury, NJ, home of the Musconetcong Watershed Association and a trout fishery that uses the water and runs a business selling the trout to a lake Hopatcong fishing group and other groups. Also, the whole title of the piece, about a ‘reduction in outflow’ is backwards, and is just the propaganda that has been fed to those downstreeam, but is not based on fact.

    Compared to history, and science, this plan is an INCREASE in the outflow, because even when including the years since 2005 when minimum outflow was attempted to be at 12cfs, which are also included in this data, the lake outflowed less than 12cfs much of the year.

    Just see Figure 15 (page 12) of the NJGS report at http://www.state.nj.us/dep/njgs/pricelst/tmemo/tm10-1.pdf to see the large # of days with < 10cfs or even < 1cfs.

    Also see Table 10 (page 18) of 'observed low flows', which shows that for march through September, the MEDIAN low flow (half the years higher, half the years lower) is 11cfs except for 16cfs in May (when the dam is almost always overflowing anyway) and 10cfs in July. By MEDIAN, this means half the years were higher than 11cfs low-flow, half the years were less. to make 12cfs (or even 11cfs) the new MINIMUM, rather than media, would be a major INCREASE in outflow from what the Musconetcong got previously.

    The only reason one might say that the lake might give out less water, is the focus on one paragraph that was added that indicates that if the lake is down 1 foot, the DEP MAY (not necessarily will) CONSIDER means to reduce outflow. That item would NOT be necessary if not for the INCREASED outflow that the new plan requires versus actual history of outflows.

    Also note that the main recommendation of those around the lake is that instead of waiting until the water has literally flowed out fo the dam to consider closing the dam somewhat, that instead, during the wettest time of year, when all that snow surrounding the MWA person in the video starts to melt, and it is known from USGS Historical data, that the lake has traditionally let out much LESS than 12cfs during the wet spring, that this method of ACTUAL outflows be maintained. Any increase of outflow, to a new 12cfs standard that is HIGHER than actual observed data, is what would require a study BEFORE such a change is made.

    I have summary tables of the USGS data by month showing that 30% of all March days had less than 12cfs, about 20% were less than 10cfs in march and April, and more than 10% of the March days were even less than 6cfs. 34% of the July days were less than 12cfs, and 31% of August days were less than 12cfs, shown in decades of USGS data, including even the years when 12cfs was being strictly attempted.

    I am happy to provide this data to anyone who is interested, at johkur@optonline.net.

    Also note that the same NJGS document states on page 9 that it would be impossible to determine what natural streamflow to the Musconetcong river would be if Lake Hopatcong was not there, but also that if Lake Hopatcong is an enlargement of original natural lakes, the Musconetcong river "would never have experienced truly free-flowing upstream conditions". In that same paper, that history is provided, as do maps as far back as 1777, located at http://mapmaker.rutgers.edu/MAPS.html

    At 12cfs minimum outflow, the lake is being forced to increase way beyond the 'natural' (ie. no-lake) outflow level that the Musconetcong would otherwise see, and based on all the decades of USGS recorded outflow data started in 1928, including even the recent years when 12cfs minimum outflow was recently attempted (and failed, with DEP needing to take emergency receovery action twice in the last 5 years), even then the lake minimum outflow median is MUCH lower than 12cfs, and certainly any move towards 12cfs is not supported by science and is what would need the study.

    Also, this is not a case of boating interests versus ‘nature’ as presented. Last summer, as mentioned at the January 31st Lake Level Management Plan meeting, there were significant fish kills in Lake Hopatcong’s own Jefferson canal areas which are very shallow and had become a mudflat of dead fish. To drain water out of Lake Hopatcong, which at least HOLDS water, versus constantly releasing water to sustain a constant volume to a creek/river which by definition drains and loses the water makes no sense. You can conserve water in the lake, or you can dump it into the ocean via the river. Which makes sense for the protection of the state’s waters, dumping or conservation?

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