Lake Hopatcong Fund bill passes committee

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Legislation sponsored by Senate Republicans Anthony Bucco, Steven Oroho and Joe Pennacchio to establish the “Lake Hopatcong Fund” has passed the Senate Environment Committee.

The bill would dedicate $500,000 annually to the “Lake Hoptacong Fund,” for the protection, preservation, restoration, maintenance, management and enhancement of New Jersey’s largest state-run lake. The funds would come from license fees required to operate power boats on nontidal waters.

“Lake Hopatcong brings in millions in revenue for the state each year,” Senator Bucco (R-Morris, Somerset) said. “Our economy will suffer if we don’t find a stable way to pay for annual weed harvesting and stormwater management. We shouldn’t have to scramble every year to find the money we need to keep boaters and swimmers safe. I believe that our bill is a fiscally-responsible solution to this problem. I will continue to do everything I can to get it signed into law.”

“We fought hard to ensure the Fiscal Year 2018 budget included funding to protect Lake Hopatcong, but a one-time payment is not enough,” Senator Oroho (R-Sussex, Warren, Morris) said. “The lake has become overrun with invasive weeds and the problem seems to get worse every year. Setting up a permanent, dedicated funding source for preservation and maintenance is the best way to ensure future generations can enjoy this treasured natural resource.”

“This is not just a local issue. Tourists come from all over the country to visit Lake Hopatcong,” Senator Pennacchio (R-Morris, Essex, Passaic) said. “This is a tried and true economic resource for the entire region and it deserves our support. The cost of maintaining the lake shouldn’t fall on the backs of local residents and business owners alone. Our bill will ensure everyone can enjoy the lake for years to come.”

Lake Hopatcong, which lies on the southern border of Sussex and Morris Counties, is New Jersey’s largest freshwater lake — occupying 38 miles of shoreline and encompassing 2,658 acres. It is a heavily utilized fresh water fishery and offers year-round recreational opportunities. Local officials and advocates have said that this year’s weed growth is the worst in recent memory and some areas of the lake are no longer navigable.

Current law requires a fee of $18 for a 48-month power vessel operator’s license. Those fees are currently split between the State general fund and the Motor Vehicle Commission. Under the Senators’ bill, S-2389, those fees would be redirected to the “Lake Hopatcong Fund” created by their legislation.
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