Watershed Protection Issues
We are taking many important steps to protect our water supply, our environment and our quality of life. The major issues and projects that we are focusing on are outlined below and explained in detail in the linked pages.
Citizens Guide for Public Participation
Too often, citizens learn about a poorly planned development when the bulldozers arrive and sensitive habitat and water resources are being degraded. We are creating an online guide to help residents interpret public notices, become involved early in the permitting process and understand the course of public participation. The guide will also include a land use glossary and links to resources.
- Water Deficits: In addition to being a place of notable beauty and biodiversity, New Jersey’s Highlands region is the source of drinking water for nearly 5 million people — 850,000 in the region and 4,000,000 in surrounding areas. Much of the Raritan Headwaters region lies within the 860,000 acre Highlands area, so we have a vested interest in protecting the water and other natural resources of the Highlands. Approximately 62% of the Highlands’ subwatersheds are in deficit, which means that existing water uses exceed the capacity of the ground water supply to sustain them. We are working to make sure the State addresses these deficits by requiring major water users to develop and implement water conservation plans.
- Regional Master Plan: The Highlands Regional Master Plan will be reviewed in 2013 and 2014. The Highlands Council is authorized to update all substantive components of the RMP. Such updates may affect data, maps and other information used within the RMP, and we are concerned that the review will include attempts to significantly weaken protections for the Highlands.
- Highlands Conformance: We are working with municipalities to encourage them to conform their Preservation and Planning Areas.
We are engaged in a campaign to secure a stable source of funding for the Garden State Preservation Trust – the fund that supports New Jersey’s open space preservation program.
New Jersey State Strategic Plan
The State Strategic Plan was scheduled to be released the day after Hurricane Sandy hit. The administration put it on hold for at least six months, as priorities have changed because of the storm damage (and because the draft plan ignored the shore, which was rather embarrassing in the aftermath of the storm). This delay will slow the Water Quality Management Plan process and the State Water Supply Master Plan. Given this administration’s poor environmental record, the delays are probably good for conservation.
This rule, which gives the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection the power to grant exemptions across more than 100 environmental, public health and workplace safety permit programs, was adopted in 2012. RHA has joined with a diverse group of organizations to challenge the rule in the Legislature and in court.
Rivers and streams throughout the Raritan basin contain unsafe levels of nutrients, fecal coliform and other pollutants. Efforts to reduce pollutant loads have been underway for many years, but a critical measure, the establishment of Total Maximum Daily Loads, has not yet been finalized. RHA is working to ensure that the TMDL program for the Raritan Basin will at long last be completed in 2013.
Super Storm Sandy toppled hundreds of acres of mature trees throughout the region, leaving stream banks and riparian areas vulnerable to erosion and flooding. We will work with private property owners, local governments and community groups to replant native trees in areas vital to the health of our watersheds.
As efforts are made to upgrade the electricity grid, expand gas transmission lines and expand solar and wind energy production in New Jersey, our state is experiencing significant threats to open space and water quality. We are committed to ensuring that power facilities are sited in places that do not compromise critical natural resources.
- Land Conservation Plan
- Proposed Quarry Expansion in Glen Gardner
- River Friendly Resident Program