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NJ DEPT. OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION NEWS RELEASE
RELEASE: 10/26/00
125/00
CONTACT: Loretta O’Donnell or Dan Van Abs
609-984-1795 or 609-292-2994

RARITAN BASIN WATERSHED PLANNING UNDERWAY

The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the NJ Water Supply Authority launched a watershed planning initiative to provide clean and plentiful water throughout the Raritan River Basin.

The Raritan Basin covers over 1,100 square miles encompassing parts of seven counties and 100 municipalities. The basin includes parts of Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Somerset and Union counties.

Major rivers and streams in the basin include the North Branch and South Branch of the Raritan, Millstone River, Lamington River, Green Brook, Lawrence Brook and South River, with over 2,000 miles of streams in all.

The Raritan Basin watershed project is part of DEP's statewide effort to build on existing pollution control efforts, open space initiatives and water resources programs. The NJ Water Supply Authority, a state utility that operates the Round Valley and Spruce Run reservoirs and the Delaware & Raritan Canal, has signed a $1 million contract with DEP to manage the Raritan project.

The Raritan Basin watershed plan, once adopted, will focus on stormwater management, pollutants from land runoff, wastewater treatment plants, development approaches, open space plans and many other issues. DEP has committed to adopt the plan by June 2003.

The kick-off meeting for the project was held at the Ramada Inn in Franklin Township, Somerset County. Attending were members of the general public along with representatives of county and municipal government, water suppliers, wastewater treatment facilities, business and industry, environmental organizations, developers, agriculture and many other interests.

"Your involvement in this project will determine whether the watersheds of the Raritan Basin provide clean water and healthy streams to future generations," said Tom Baxter, executive director of the Water Supply Authority, who gave an overview of the project.

"We have achieved great progress in water quality through point source controls over the years, spending billions of dollars in the process. However, increasing populations and spreading development, combined with existing and past land uses, are threatening our waters," said Lance Miller, director of DEP's Division of Watershed Management, who also encouraged the audience to be involved with the project.

Dan Van Abs, the Water Supply Authority's manager for watershed protection, provided an overview of several technical reports completed recently regarding surface water quality, water supply availability and the geography of the basin. Many maps from the reports were presented.

"During the last 18 months, our project team has worked to provide you with a great deal of information that should make planning easier, faster and more successful. These reports show clearly that we have both good quality and significant problems in the basin, depending on where you are," he said.

All of the information in the reports is provided on the Raritan project website, at www.raritanbasin.org, and are also available on computer disks or paper. Project team members have included DEP, the authority, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, Rutgers Center for Environmental Communications, and the South Branch, Stony Brook-Millstone and Upper Raritan watershed associations.

Van Abs also outlined the work plan, schedule and budget for the project. He emphasized that successful planning requires the involvement of many interests. At upcoming meetings, the participants will decide how the public involvement process will be structured.

The second meeting will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 28, at 6:30 p.m. at the Ramada Inn on Weston Canal Road and Cottontail Lane, Exit 12, Route 287, in Franklin Township (Somerset).

Anyone interested in being on the project mailing list can contact the authority staff at (732) 356-9344, PO Box 287, South Bound Brook, 08880, or by e-mailing to projects@raritanbasin.org.

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