Lawsuit Filed Against NJDEP to Protect the Rights of Citizens and Environment

September 12, 2013

Lawsuit Filed Against the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to Defend the Rights of Citizens, Protect the Environment and Stop the Drawdown of Lake Hopatcong

 

A lawsuit and order to show cause against the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP) and Hopatcong State Park was filed by Joseph Fernandez and Bridge Marina on Tuesday, September 10, 2013, requesting the NJ DEP cease and desist in the proposed 2013 five foot drawdown on Lake Hopatcong and comply with New Jersey law and the NJ DEP’s own guidelines.  The suit was filed by the environmental law firm Lieberman and Blecher of Princeton,N.J. 

Historically, Lake Hopatcong has been lowered 60 inches every five years in order to create advantageous construction conditions for a portion of lakefront landowners.  Conversely, lowering the water 60 inches disadvantages the remainder of the lakefront landowners, removes access for all other New Jersey citizens who use the lake, and places the lake’s environment at severe risk during the drawdown and in subsequent seasons.  The lawsuit asserts that the NJ DEP and Hopatcong State Park are violating numerous state laws, violating lakefront property owners’ rights, as well as violating the NJ DEP’s own permit rules.   

Ray Fernandez, who owns Bridge Marina on Lake Hopatcong, is a longtime advocate for protecting Lake Hopatcong; he has volunteered his time as a commissioner on the Lake Hopatcong Commission and is also a founding member of the Lake Hopatcong Alliance, a non-profit, grassroots organization that was created in 2009 to help safeguard the lake.  Fernandez currently serves as a volunteer member of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC) to the Lake Hopatcong Water Management Plan.

According to Fernandez, “Unfortunately, the NJ DEP has been unwilling to consider alternatives to the 60 inch drawdown and has ignored all compromise on this issue and other key issues facing the lake’s health.  After years of pleading with the NJ DEP to protect the rights of all lake users, we were left with no other option than to bring these issues to the attention of our legal system.  There are thousands of New Jersey residents who believe that drawing down the waters of Lake Hopatcong to benefit just a few citizens is simply unjust, unfair and unconstitutional.  This dispute is to ensure that the lake and its waters are protected for all citizens today and in the future.”

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