Developments in NJ Water Regulations

January 16, 2008
by BRIDGET DORFMAN
Client Alert Newsletter Forecast 2008

Several changes are expected in the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection ("NJDEP") water regulatory program, although the full impact of those changes will remain unclear until NJDEP finalizes several pending actions. First, on May 21, 2007, NJDEP proposed that Water Quality Management Planning ("WQMP") rules be readopted with amendments aimed primarily at restructuring the wastewater management planning system to keep those plans up-to-date and in compliance. At NJDEP's request, however, Governor Corzine extended the expiration date of the current WQMP rules from October 28, 2007, to May 21, 2008, so that NJDEP could consider issues raised through the public participation process.

Second, this past fall, NJDEP issued a proposal to readopt and amend its rules regulating development in and around freshwater wetlands. The proposed revisions impose significant and wide-ranging changes that would likely make it more difficult and costly to obtain a freshwater wetlands permit. Similar to the WQMP rules, the current freshwater wetland rules were due to expire on January 30, 2008, but Governor Corzine extended the expiration date until September 4, 2008 to enable NJDEP to consider public comments.

Third, this spring NJDEP is expected to issue draft portions of its updated New Jersey Statewide Water Supply Plan (a/k/a the "Master Plan"). The Master Plan update is eagerly anticipated not only as the key policy document setting forth all of NJDEP's major initiatives for managing and conserving the state's water supply, but also because it has not been updated since 1996. NJDEP was expected to issue the update in 2007 but did not, so the anticipation for the update has only increased.

Finally, NJDEP is expected to approve proposed amendments to its surface water quality standards that would redesignate over 900 miles of streams to the "Category One" classification. This would require upgraded protection for those streams, including riparian buffers of up to 300 feet on either side of the waterway.

When finalized, the new WQMP rules, Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act rules, updated Master Plan, and the revised water quality standards could have significant impacts on development and water use in New Jersey.