SAVE THE LAKE: 2000--Advances
By: Tim Clancy

     So much has happened in the last several weeks with the SAVE THE LAKE: 2000 campaign that I hardly know where to begin. But the bottom line is we are much further along than any of us could have imagined when the officers and trustees first proposed the concept last summer. Not if, but when we see this come to a conclusion the impact that this will have on Lake Hopatcong will have more significance than any other effort the club has made in its long Proud History. We really are on the threshold of the club's Exciting Future. It's important though to understand that we still have a long way to go and we will need all of your support to see this through.
     The support for the campaign continues to grow with more businesses and organizations joining our efforts. In addition to the four towns that surround the lake passing formal resolutions supporting SAVE THE LAKE: 2000, other towns in the area along with the Morris County Board of Freeholders and the Morris County Planning Board are either drafting or have passed similar resolutions.
     As we explained in earlier articles, our goal is to help form a commission with adequate funding to better manage the state's largest lake. Our model is similar to the current Lake Hopatcong Regional Planning Board but it would have more authority to make and enforce regulations that deal with water quality issues. More importantly though, it would also have a fully staffed and funded organization below it that would implement all of the Commission's recommendations. Their duties would include weed harvesting, storm water management projects, water quality monitoring, equipment maintenance etc. It is our view, that, not only will they do a better job than is currently being done, but that in the long run they will do it more cost effective. To accomplish this a bill must be introduced and passed in both houses in the State Legislature and ultimately be signed by the Governor. The big news is that this process has already begun!
      Senator Anthony Bucco, who has absolutely been our biggest supporter in this effort, has already drafted a bill to be introduced in the Senate. To make sure that this bill meets all of the needs of the lake and that all of the parties concerned could support it, Senator Bucco wanted to hold a "Stake Holders" meeting to have an open and frank discussion on the proposed bill. He asked the Knee Deep Club to help him organize the meeting which was held at the Jefferson House in late November. We must thank Bill Orth, owner of the Jefferson House, who not only made his facility available, but also put on an excellent lunch for the participants, which he donated.
      To make sure that there was a diverse group that understood all of the issues confronting the lake we worked with Senator Bucco to develop a list of invitees that represented local, county and state government as well as local businesses and organizations. Those that were able to attend presented quite an impressive group. In addition to Senator Bucco, Senator Bob Littel, Assemblyman Rick Merkt and a representative from Assemblyman E. Scott Garrett's office attended. Representatives from both DEP and State Parks as well a majority of the Lake Hopatcong Regional Planning Board participated. Also all four towns and the business community were represented. Everyone was impressed and grateful that U.S. Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, who has always been a big advocate of the lake in the Federal Government, was able to attend and speak to the group. We had several guest speakers in addition to Senator Bucco who conducted the meeting. Marty Kane, President of the Lake Hopatcong Historical Society, gave a very informative presentation on the lake's history. Dr. Fred Lubnow spoke on the environmental issues confronting the lake, Dan McCarthy spoke about the Regional Planning Board and their problems with funding and I spoke about the club's campaign and presented our model for a commission, which included a proposed budget.
      The overall consensus of those participating was very positive with everyone agreeing with the concept about what is being proposed. The towns did express some concerns with the idea of the state imposing burdens on the towns, but Senator Littel, who is Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, explained that the state can not impose mandates without funding.
     The next step is to make some amendments to the draft, which will then be sent out to all of the parties for final comments and hopefully we'll have a bill that will be introduced in the Senate in January! I think Senator Bucco is to be commended because I don't believe that an effort of this scope, getting all parties concerned to openly discuss proposed legislature, has ever been accomplished before. Once the bill is introduced it will be up to us, the Knee Deep Club, to continue our efforts and lobby to get it passed.