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Our legal team at Lieberman & Blecher recently filed a lawsuit and order to show cause on behalf of a landowner on Lake Hopatcong against the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and Hopatcong State Park’s proposed drawdown of Lake Hopatcong’s water, scheduled to commence on September 22, 2013.
The proposed drawdown would drain five feet of water from the entire Lake in order to create ease of access for a portion of lakefront landowners to perform certain repairs and maintenance to their docks. However, this drawdown affects the entire Lake, including a majority of lakefront property owners who do not need the drawdown, and who may in fact be damaged by it and its consequences.
Our clients fear that history may repeat itself if the drawdown gos forward. In 2008, a five feet drawdown occurred and completely drained the lake water from our clients' property, which he leases to Bridge Marina. The drawdown adversely impacted public access to the lake and was detrimental to marina business. Access to Lake Hopatcong was consequentially limited or impossible for the citizens of New Jersey who used the Lake for a variety of recreational purposes. Ultimately, many of those citizens were forced to find new waters (and marinas) for their recreational activities; many did not return when the water rose to usable levels over a year later. Additionally, such lowering of water levels has the potential to cause negative consequences to the ecosystem of the Lake; lower water levels affect the Lake’s temperature and can increase levels of phosphorous within, causing potentially irreparable damage to the plant and animal life beneath what is left of its waters.
Our clients allege that this drawdown of lake waters is not being carried out consistent with the NJDEP’s own regulations and permitting process, and that the Water Lowering Permit issued by the Division of Fish and Wildlife is not legal. Importantly, much of Lake Hopatcong is privately owned by the landowners on its shores. While the NJDEP has certain rights and responsibilities, there is concern that the State is infringing upon the rights of property owners and taking action detrimental to the public, who rely on the resources of Lake Hopatcong.
On Thursday, September 19, 2013, our attorneys will be arguing an Order to Show Cause and applying to the Court for an injunction to halt the water lowering while the legalities of the NJDEP's actions are evaluated. To read more about the case, please consult the following articles: