New Jersey launches inaugural 'Kicking Off Summer Lakes Tour'

LAKE HOPATCONG, New Jersey (WABC) -- New Jersey may be known for its beaches and boardwalks, but the Garden State has much more to offer in terms of water activities, and officials on Tuesday launched their inaugural Kicking Off Summer Lakes Tour.

Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette and Associate Commissioner for Science and Policy Katrina Angarone joined local officials for a news conference and boat tour at Lake Hopatcong State Park.

They discussed ongoing efforts to reduce harmful algal blooms in New Jersey's lakes, as well as ways the DEP is working with local partners can protect water quality.

"It's one of our jobs to make sure that the quality of this water body is maintained and constantly improved upon for the public," LaTourette said. "Because our natural resources, our air, our land, our water, our fish and wildlife, are natural and historic assets."

The algae blooms that are devastating to the health of the water and the economy remain a constant fear.

"The temperature, the water chemistry, the amount of light, all of these things come together, but really what feeds the harmful algae blooms are the nutrients," Angarone said. "We call it harmful algae, but it's really cyanobacteria, and it's harmful to humans. It can cause skin irritation at pretty low level, but if it's ingested, even accidentally, by humans or by wildlife, it can be a neurotoxin."

Officials who love and live in or around the area are considering many solutions, including rain gardens at homes that would filter rainwater runoff before it hits the lake. carp that eat the algae and weeds, and even taking old septic tanks offline.

"We want to make our lake healthy," Hopatcong Mayor Michael Francis said. "We want to make our lake vibrant. We want to make our lake somewhere you want to take your boat on."

The DEP has been working closely with local officials and various stakeholders on innovative projects to improve water quality and educate the public about ways to keep the lakes ecologically healthy, providing $20 million in grants to help lake communities fight off threats to their well-being.

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