NJDEP Aims to Limit Development Along Waterways and Sensitive Lands

May 16, 2007
by ERIC SCOTT
Client Alert Newsletter May 2007

On April 23, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection ("NJDEP") announced proposed amendments to the Surface Water Quality Standards that would extend Category One designation to approximately 910 miles of waterways. Category One waters are protected from measurable changes in water quality because of their aesthetic value or exceptional ecological, recreational, water supply, or fisheries resource significance. The designation would discourage nearby development by strictly limiting effluent discharges and imposing buffers adjacent to the waterways and their upstream tributaries in the same sub-watershed. The designation includes large sections of 15 major waterways and their tributaries, such as the Toms River in Ocean County, the Wallkill River in Sussex County, and the Musconetcong and Pequest rivers in Warren County. The proposal was published in the New Jersey Register on May 21. Public hearings are scheduled for June 28, and written comments are due by July 20.

NJDEP also announced proposed amendments to the Water Quality Management Standards to address septic system impact on groundwater and establish new standards for wastewater management planning, including removing environmentally sensitive lands from sewer service areas. The proposal would require municipalities to update their wastewater management plans, which regulate development based on sewer system availability and environmental impact. Currently, 298 municipalities have outdated plans, and 141 lack them entirely. Further, the proposal would give counties a nine-month grace period to update their wastewater management plans or face withdrawal of their sewer service area designation. Without such designation, developers cannot obtain sewer hookups for new development. Upon completion of a wastewater management plan, the appropriate designation would be restored. The proposal was published in the New Jersey Register on May 21. Public hearings are scheduled for June 8, 11, and 15, and written comments are due by July 20.