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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.