DEP TO HOLD STAKEHOLDER MEETINGS ON THE NEW JERSEY HIGHLANDS
(10/P30) TRENTON -Commissioner Bob Martin said today he plans to meet with key players from the New Jersey Highlands region, in a series of stakeholder meetings designed to address important issues pertaining to the environmentally sensitive North Jersey area.
The informal sessions, to be held starting next month, will include members of environmental groups, government agencies, business and industry groups, political leaders and property owners in the vast North Jersey area that contains the potable water supply for much of the state.
“We are inviting people from all sides of the issues to meet with us,’’ said Commissioner Martin. “We want these stakeholders to be frank with us, to help us understand issues of importance in the Highlands and help us come up with potential solutions to any problems.’’
Some major issues that have been raised include the permit process for Highlands’ development, overlapping roles of the DEP and the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council, and the rights of landowners in the Highlands.
The stakeholder sessions could lead to changes in internal DEP policies and regulations, and could result in proposed legislation, said Martin, who stressed he wants decisions on Highlands issues to be based on science, data and hard facts.
Commissioner Martin stressed he and Gov. Chris Christie have committed to protecting the water supply and natural resources in the Highlands, as directed by the state’s Highlands Act.
“The message should be loud and clear: DEP’s core mission is and will continue to be to protect the air, water, land and natural resources of our state,’’ said Commissioner Martin. “We will not compromise the environmental laws of New Jersey.
The New Jersey Highlands is a 1,343 square mile area in the northwest part of the state noted for its scenic beauty and environmental significance. The region stretches from Phillipsburg in the southwest to Ringwood in the northeast, and lies within portions of 88 towns in seven counties, including Hunterdon, Somerset, Sussex, Warren, Morris, Passaic, and Bergen.
The Highlands yields about 379 million gallons of water daily and is a vital source of drinking water for million of New Jersey residents. Protecting that water supply is critically important to maintaining the future economic viability of the entire state.