Lake residents and businesses will be spared pain under new algal bloom index

02 Jun 2020 | 07:33

    Last year, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) closed Lake Hopatcong and Greenwood Lake, among others, to recreational activities like swimming, wading, and water sports. The impact was devastating to lakeside economies dependent on tourists to survive.

    The DEP has developed a color-coded health alert index that will provide guidance on recreational use recommendations to the public based on different count levels of cyanobacteria and/or cyanotoxins present. The index has multiple alert categories, each providing recommendations based on water monitoring results.

    New guidelines allow recreational activities to continue in more situations when blooms are detected. During smaller blooms, at count levels when recreational activity would have been prohibited previously, people will instead be provided with clear signage of the alert level to allow for informed decisions to be made.

    This is the best news in a long time for municipalities and local businesses suffering under the strict COVID restrictions. The lake area needs a strong summer tourist season to begin recovering. I am optimistic that DEP has adopted a more prudent path and one our residents can understand.

    Under the new guidelines, Lake Hopatcong and other important waters would have remained open last summer. It was never determined the water was unsafe, and these new guidelines utilize more analysis to determine risks and protect the well-being of boaters and bathers. We welcome better communications, more realistic safety evaluations, and consistent continuation of popular recreational activities that attract visitors to the shorelines.

    Republican colleagues Senator Joe Pennacchio and Senator Anthony M. Bucco and I are sponsoring legislation (S-1986) that would allocate $10 million of constitutionally dedicated CBT revenues for grants for certain lake management activities for recreation and conservation purposes.

    This is a step in the right direction, but we need a permanent source of money to protect the lakes. DEP can run with our idea and use already-approved money without waiting for the Legislature to act. It’s a sensible solution to an ongoing problem.

    Senator Steve Oroho (R-24)