In 2020, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) upgraded 600 stream miles to Category One (C1) status, granting enhanced protections to prevent our most ecologically sensitive waters from future degradation. Volunteer data from Raritan Headwaters Association was used to support C1 upgrades for about 200 miles of streams in the Raritan Basin. Even though the data was quality-assured and approved for regulatory use by the NJDEP, challenges arose from government agencies and members of the business community that could no longer develop freely within 300 feet of the newly-designated C1 streams. They argued that NJDEP was not transparent in their decision-making and that community science data could not be used legitimately for regulatory actions.

With representation from the Eastern Environmental Law Center (EELC), Raritan Headwaters, The Watershed Institute, and the New Jersey Highlands Coalition filed an amicus brief to defend NJDEP’s upgrades on the basis that Raritan Headwaters, and other quality-assured community monitoring programs, are capable of collecting data of the same caliber as state agencies. New Jersey is one of many states using community science data to inform their regulatory water quality assessments. In fact, the EPA actively encourages state environmental agencies to review and accept community data for their own use as long as proper quality assurance and quality control requirements are met.

In 2022, the New Jersey Appellate and Supreme Courts affirmed NJDEP’s decision to upgrade the streams to C1 status based on community science. In other words, we won!

In this webinar, we will examine the background of this court case, learn about Raritan Headwaters’ monitoring program, and discuss how we were able to successfully defend the use of community data in New Jersey. Presenters include Kristi MacDonald, PhD, Science Director, and Bill Kibler, Policy Director, from Raritan Headwaters; Daniel Greenhouse, senior attorney from EELC; and Erin Stretz, coordinator of the New Jersey Watershed Watch Network from The Watershed Institute.

This webinar is free to attend. If you are interested in CLE credits there is a $25 fee. 

This webinar is co-sponsored by Raritan Headwaters Association, Eastern Environmental Law Center, and the National Water Quality Monitoring Council Volunteer Monitoring Workgroup.