Ice Eaters Regulations for Lake Hopatcong

Since the winter of 2010 when Lake Hopatcong did not freeze over despite having a very cold winter, there has been much concern about the use of ice eaters on the lake and the unsafe ice conditions they can potentially create if not operated properly   Here on the lake, we use the term ice eaters, but an ice eater is only one type of ice retardant system in use.  The use of all types of ice retardant systems are regulated through municipal ordinances in the Boroughs of Hopatcong and Mount Arlington and the Township of Jefferson.  

The Lake Hopatcong Commission is working with all four municipalities on the lake to promote the safe and effective use of ice retardant systems.  Promoting the proper use of these systems will help prevent winter accidents from occurring on the lake while still being able to protect docks and property from ice damage.  Although the majority of the lake was ice-covered by mid to late December in 2009, throughout the remainder of the winter in 2010, large areas of Lake Hopatcong remained open water and did not freeze over.   A possible cause for the large areas of open water was the improper use of ice retardant systems exacerbated by windy conditions.  Lets work together to prevent ice retardant systems from keeping Lake Hopatcong frozen over during cold winter months which is what happened in 2010.

Lake George located in the Adirondacks Region in upstate New York has been dealing with unsafe ice conditions because of improper use of ice eaters.  The Lake George Association (LGA) brochure, "Don't Be Eaten Alive!  Tips for effective and safe use of ice eaters" is a valuable guide of simple steps to follow.  The LGA News, has a SPECIAL ISSUE on Winter Safety Tips to Live By. Download, read, and pass these on to friends, family and neighbors that use ice eaters and go out on the lake in the winter.

To operate your ice retardant system properly so it does not cause a safety hazard  for people and animals on the ice, connect it to a thermostat and timer, don't operate it for more than fours hours a day, have it pointed upwards in vertical position and stop using it before the spring ice melt.  Systems with a timer and thermostat to limit the hours of use daily will protect your property while saving money on the electrical costs.  During freezing temperature, this will allow the lake to stay frozen in areas of the lake away from your property and will protect the public's safety. 

Q&As About Ice Retardant Systems

  1. What is an ice-retardant system?
  2. Who regulates the use of ice retardant systems on Lake Hopatcong?
  3. How does improper or excessive use of ice retardant systems impact Lake Hopatcong?
  4. What are the proper operating iustructions for ice retardant systems?

What is an ice retardant system?

An ice-retardant system is a mechanical device or a series of mechanical devices designed to retard or prevent the formation of ice in or around lake front structures. These devices utilize as their mode of operation, one or more of the following mechanisms: pumped air, artificial water turbulence, the addition of heat to the water body, or other mechanism which impedes or prevents the formation of ice on the lake surface.  Around Lake Hopatcong, these devices are commonly referred to as an "ice eater" which refers to a dock de-icer that uses an electric motor and prop to pull warmer water from the depth and direct it towards the surface.  Actually, ice eater is a brand name for an ice eater product line produce by The Powerhouse in the United States.  Ice eater is the term often used generically to refer to this type of de-icer as one refers to Kleenex to describe facial tissues or Xerox copy to describe a photocopy.

Ice eaters and bubblers are two different types of systems, but ice eaters can open up much larger areas of water which creates public safety concerns and may cause dock damage.  Bubblers use less energy and cost less to operate, but are more expensive initially to purchase and more work is involved to install and maintain.  Most importantly, bubblers create only a small area of open water. 

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Who regulates the use of ice retardant systems on Lake Hopatcong?

The Lake Hopatcong Commission does not have regulatory or enforcement authority on Lake Hopatcong.  However, three of Lake Hopatcong's local municipalities, Mount Arlington, Hopatcong and Jefferson, all have an ordinance in place which regulates the use of ice retardant systems.  Roxbury Township is considering adopting a similar ordinance.  The current municipal ordinances have the following in common for ice retardant systems operating under normal conditions:

Additionally, the ordinances indicate:

For complete details on the municipal ice retardant system ordinances, click here or visit your town codebook on your local municipality's webpage.  If an ice eater is creating an area of open water larger than 25', if possible, make the property owner aware of the potential dangers this can cause.   As these ordinances indicate, it can be reported to the construction official in Hopatcong, Jefferson or Mount Arlington.

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How does improper or excessive use of ice retardant systems impact Lake Hopatcong?

Beside the public safety issue of  falling through thin ice due to improper or excessive use of ice-eaters, there is another benefit to having snow covered ice on the lake.  Large areas of open water in the winter can promote faster weed growth as the warmer season approaches.  Snow-covered ice on the lake does not allow the sun to penetrate and warm the water which may promote early season weed growth.   Keeping the lake frozen over in the winter may cut down on weed growth.



Very large area of open water on Lake Hopatcong during Winter 2010.


PHOTO CREDIT:  Art Clark, Hopatcong resident

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What are the proper operating instructions for ice retardant systems?

Determine system size needed.  A 1/2 hp motors opens 50' diameter area and 1 hp opens 90' diameter area.  A motor that is too big will open up an area in excess of the 25' allowable area designated in local municipal ordinances.

Go green and save.  Get a timer and a thermostat for your system.  Save energy and money. Remember 4 hours of operating daily should be sufficient to keep the area by your property from freezing over.

Follow system directions.  These systems are not designed to impede public access to lake. 

Place the system in the correct direction. In most cases, the device should be positioned vertically and not pointing out to the middle or the lake or in towards the shoreline. 

Stop using your system when the ice starts to melt.  Watch the ice and when it starts to melt, usually in late February/March, turn your system off.  A thin sheet  of ice needs to connect to your dock.  This should prevent blowing sheets of thicker ice from other areas from crashing into your dock. 

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More open water during winter 2010 looking towards Halsey Islands from Main Lake Market.


PHOTO CREDIT:  Art Clark, Hopatcong resident

Revised: 01/04/12.