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March 8, 2005

Contact: Erin Phalon
(609) 984-1795


Acquisitions Will Protect Hunterdon County's Spruce Run Watershed

(05/17) TRENTON -- Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell today announced the preservation of three properties located in the Spruce Run Reservoir watershed in the Highlands region. The DEP Green Acres Program purchased these properties, which comprise 132 acres, in partnership with the New Jersey Water Supply Authority (NJWSA), Bethlehem Township, Clinton Township and Lebanon Township.

"This preservation initiative enables the State of New Jersey to protect vulnerable open space in the Highlands region using funds from a variety of sources, including from those who live downstream and use its water," said Acting Governor Richard J. Codey.

Spruce Run Reservoir, which is designated a Category One waterbody, augments the resources of the Raritan River. The Raritan River provides drinking water to residents of 48 municipalities in Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Morris, Somerset and Union Counties. Fifty-five percent of the Raritan River's source water area is located in the Highlands region.

"This acquisition proves again that critics of the Highlands Protection Act are wrong," said Commissioner Campbell. "DEP is committed to providing landowners equity and safeguarding water resources under the Act. I call on critics to open a new chapter of cooperation with DEP and the Highlands Council."

The three properties, which are located in Bethlehem Township, Clinton Township and Lebanon Township, contain fields and woodlands that serve as habitat to migratory songbirds and threatened grassland birds. In addition, the preservation of these properties will protect streams that support trout and wetlands that support endangered species including the bog turtle and the spotted salamander. DEP will manage the properties for passive recreation.

Commissioner Campbell announced the preservation of the following properties:

  • The 54.26-acre Van Leight property, which is located on Mine Road in Bethlehem Township and contains two tributaries of the Mulhockaway Creek. This property was purchased by Bethlehem Township, which contributed $91,206, the DEP Green Acres Program, which provided $305,919 through a Planning Incentive Grant to Bethlehem Township, and NJWSA, which contributed $91,206. The property is part of an extensive greenway within the forested Musconetcong Mountain region, which provides filtration of ground water resources and habitat for migrant songbirds as well as the endangered bobcat.

  • The 58-acre Nicholson property was purchased with a $145,000 payment from NJWSA, $133,900 from Lebanon Township and a $301,100 Green Acres Planning Incentive Grant to Lebanon Township. The Nicholson property, which is located in Lebanon Township, contains tributaries of the Spruce Run.

  • The 19.5-acre Ciano property, located in Clinton Township, was purchased by NJWSA, which provided $175,000; Clinton Township, which contributed a $175,000 DEP Green Acres Planning Incentive Grant; and DEP, which contributed $350,000. The Ciano property is directly adjacent to the Spruce Run Reservoir and existing preserved state lands. The preservation of this property will protect interior forest species.

"Lebanon Township is proud to be working as part of a region to make sound preservation decisions that benefit local residents and downstream New Jersey residents," said Lebanon Township Open Space and Farmland Preservation Coordinator Eileen Swan. "We can achieve so much more when we work together. We are also grateful to DEP for its continued support in the form of grant monies and staff time."

The purchase of the Ciano, Nicholson and Van Leight properties is part of NJWSA's Spruce Run Initiative, which dedicates a portion of its Raritan Basin System ratepayer funds to assisting local, county and state governments in the preservation of critical watershed properties in the Spruce Run Reservoir watershed. The Initiative's objective is to maximize the efficiency of existing watershed preservation programs through a coordinated effort of government, non-profit, and private resources.

"Preservation of these critical watershed parcels illustrates the value of partnership among governmental entities in the pursuit of a common goal," said NJWSA Executive Director Henry Patterson III. "Such projects demonstrate our customers' continued commitment to preserving the high quality of Raritan Basin water for New Jersey's residents."

The New Jersey Highlands is a 1,000 square mile area in the Northwest part of the State, stretching from Phillipsburg in the Southwest to Ringwood in the Northeast. It lies within portions of seven counties and 87 municipalities. Sixty-four percent of New Jersey residents, about 5.4 million people, receive their water from the Highlands. Those residents live in 292 municipalities, in 16 counties.

"I congratulate the DEP and its Green Acres Program for preserving these critical water supply areas," said Highlands Council Chairman John Weingart. "The Highlands Council looks forward to continuing to work with the Department as we develop our overall plan for the protection of the region's drinking water supply."

The DEP Green Acres Program purchases land to protect environmentally sensitive open space, water resources and other significant natural and historical open space. Land acquired becomes part of the statewide system of parks and forest, wildlife management areas and natural areas.

In 2005, the Green Acres Program has preserved 1,344 acres of open space. To date, Green Acres has protected 558,632 acres of open space and provided funding to develop hundreds of parks statewide. The statewide system of preserved open space and farmland totals almost 1.3 million acres.



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Last Updated: March 8, 2005