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July 16, 2008

"Civil war" still raging over lake

BY MATTHEW McGRATH
TOMS RIVER BUREAU

Dirt from state and county highways washed down storm drains is choking the Lake of the Lilies to death.

The accumulated sediment of roughly 34 years, during which the borough did little to maintain the lake's natural state, decreased the deepest parts of the 21-acre lake to less than 12 inches.

Residents have estimated that the lake could have been as deep as 10 feet, but officials commissioned by the borough to study the lake peg its depth at no more than 3 feet.

Furthermore, the natural vegetation surrounding the lake is threatened by invasive plant and animal species, chiefly phragmites and Canada geese.

"These conditions do not promote a healthy lake environment as evidenced by algae blooms and fish kills," according to a report on Lake of the Lilies by Princeton Hydro, a consulting firm. "These negative conditions are further exacerbated by the establishment of invasive, non-native emergent vegetation . . . and bank sloughing which impact the lake's shoreline and marginalize the ecological functionality of the lake's nearshore (littoral) environment."

The Borough Council took comments Tuesday from the community on Princeton Hydro's draft proposal for restoring the lake.

"I am concerned with the continual mention of chemicals (in Princeton Hydro's report)," said Candace Donoghue, Save Lake of the Lilies president. "It should be specified that we don't want chemicals."

Willie deCamp, president of Save Barnegat Bay, and Jane Nogaki, the pesticide program coordinator for New Jersey Environmental Federation, and several other residents spoke against the use of herbicides to kill the growing number of phragmites in the area of the lake.

Concern for the use of herbicides was somewhat abated by Stephen C. Sousa, Princeton Hydro president, who said chemicals were an alternative and his report suggests using mechanical means to remove the invasive plants.

The council also heard from Save Lake of the Lilies' attorney, Stuart Lieberman, who said his clients did not think the plan went far enough to restore habitats for native plants and animals.

The lake is the subject of ongoing litigation between the Save Lake of the Lilies, a group of residents who live near and next to the lake, and the borough.

Mayor Vincent Barrella characterized the contention over the lake as "a nonshooting civil war that needs to stop." He sought to mitigate impassioned speeches and disputes between neighbors, which, at one point, turned into brief shouting match.

"We have to pay for (restoring the lake) somehow," Barrella said. "We need this report so we have something to sell to Trenton."
The mayor said the state and the county have a moral and legal responsibility to help the borough pay for the lake's restoration because they routed storm drains into the lake.