JEFFERSON – When lakes become overrun with algae, the result is less than pretty. However, the solution is beautiful. In 2006, residents of Jefferson noticed a growing amount of algae and muck in Ashley Cove, a three acre section of Lake Hopatcong…
Through a non-point source pollution grant awarded by NJ Department of Environmental Protection to the Lake Hopatcong Commission, Jefferson Township was able to install a system known as Floating Wetland Islands to deliver better water quality to Ashley Cove and Lake Hopatcong.
As a relatively new technology, Floating Wetland Islands are being installed all over the tri-state area. Fred Lubnow of Princeton Hydro, the company installing the floating islands, said that Lake Hopatcong’s overwhelming amount of algae (and the muck that it produces on the bottom of the lake) is due to a high percentage of phosphorus. Wetland systems tend to have some of the highest rates of phosphorus uptake.
“Our goal is to create a cleaner lake by directing nutrients (that aid in the growth of algae) away from the main water and towards the floating islands,” said Lubnow.
In doing so, he said the artificial islands will help sustain a cleaner lake, protect the shoreline and eventually attract wildlife such as forage and gamefish, not to mention become a beautiful patch of flowers and plants.
Ashley Cove’s new additions, which went in last week, look like floating gardens, but they provide benefits far beyond that. In each Floating Wetland Island, indigenous plants, milkweed and hibiscus, among other vegetation, are planted into small holes, along with some peat and mulch, and then cast out onto the lake near the shoreline. The plants are chosen based on both practical and aesthetic purposes.
“Once the milkweeds sprout, they attract a nice haze of butterflies, and the turtles like to sunbathe on the islands too,” said Lubnow. “We try to add some color whenever possible.”
That’s just above the water. Below, the vegetation will grow long roots, cementing the islands and keeping them along the shoreline. With the help of Mother Nature and some goose netting, the vegetation will then flourish and more than double in size, mimicking the results of real wetlands that help sustain bodies of water and the wildlife surrounding it.
These artificial islands look like spongy, foam floats with sprigs of grass growing atop. “Like hair plugs,” said Donna Macalle-Holly, grant and program coordinator for the Lake Hopatcong Foundation, who helped to get the islands installed.
The floats are made of woven, recycled and plastic material. Ashley Cove received a set of ten small cells of wetland islands, covering a surface area of 500 square feet.
“We’re trying to emulate Mother Nature here. It’s a great project and a great way to create sustainability in a natural way,” said Macalle-Holly, as she helped volunteers pack soil into the mesh holes.
An alternative to watershed-based constructed wetlands, which would have been a lengthy and more difficult process, Lubnow explained, a floating wetland provides a similar result with less surface area.
Lubnow also mentioned that smaller versions of Floating Watershed Islands are also becoming popular in home gardens as well.
Helping to install the islands were eight other volunteers. “This project is neat. It’s going to be great for the lake community,” said Todd Hackett, volunteer and employee of Jefferson Township.
Just as the first wetland island was hoisted into the water, a blue heron landed on the other side of the lake. With its wings spread long, perhaps it was a symbol of the abundance of wildlife to come.
Ashley Cove should be seeing results early next season.
“The vegetation will wilt the first day but gain momentum after that. With all the sunlight hitting the islands, it will grow wonderfully,” said Lubnow.
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Did you know?
• Lake Hopatcong is the largest freshwater body in New Jersey, spanning 4 square miles
• The Lenape Indians first discovered Lake Hopatcong about 12,000 years ago
• During the 1880’s, Lake Hopatcong was considered a resort area for the rich and famous
• Lake Hopatcong is home to over 11 species of fish, including white perch, smallmouth bass and chain pickerel
Photo caption: Casey Hurt, left, and Richard Ampomah, both of Princeton Hydro, help pull a FWI into the lake. Lake Hopatcong Foundation in partnership with the Lake Hopatcong Commission, Township of Jefferson and Princeton Hydro, LLC, install Floating Wetlands Islands in Ashley Cove on Lake Hopatcong. (Photo: PHOTO BY KATHY JOHNSON/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER )
Angela Sparandera, Daily Record
View original article at: Lake Hopatcong installs Floating Wetland Islands to help curb algae growth