DEP Signs $5.5 Million Agreement with the New Jersey Pinelands Commission:
Assessing the Region's Water Supply Demands and Environmental Impacts
(02/118) TRENTON - To promote the long-term protection of the Pineland's region and its water resources, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell today announced a $5.5 million agreement with the New Jersey Pinelands Commission to conduct a study of the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer and assess the environmental impact of the region' s water supply demands.
"This study will help secure the long-term safety of one of the state's largest aquifers," said Commissioner Campbell. "Through this partnership, we will ensure better protection for the water supplies needed by the region to support growing communities, and we will gain a more comprehensive picture of the area's water capacity."
As outlined under the agreement, the Pinelands Commission will work in cooperation with the DEP, Rutgers University, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) to assess and prepare a report on key hydrologic and ecological indicators needed to evaluate how water supply demands within the Pinelands may be met without adversely impacting the area's natural resources.
Examining the environmental impacts on the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer that result from human water use, the Pinelands Commission and project partners will monitor the region's changing levels of stream flows and wetland waters and assess potential effects on aquatic and wetland communities. Several key species and communities will be used as ecological indicators in the study, including forested wetlands (such as Atlantic-white cedar and red maple swamps), intermittent ponds, pitch pine lowlands, and groups of frog and fish populations. Greenhouse and laboratory studies will complement field research.
In addition to establishing ecological thresholds that protect natural communities from damaging changes caused by increased withdrawals for potable water supply, project results can be used to determine approximate locations for regional and site-specific wells and prepare operational criteria to help minimize adverse environmental impacts.
"The Pinelands Commission is looking forward to working with the DEP as well as our other partners, including the U.S. Geological Survey, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Rutgers University, on this important scientific study," said Pinelands Commission Executive Director Annette Barbaccia. "The Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer is the lifeblood of Pinelands, supporting critical habitat and wildlife. The results of this research will help us better understand the ecological and hydrological implications of using the aquifer so that we can predict its safe yield while protecting natural resources."
The Pinelands Commission will confer with the DEP and other partners concerning the scope and format for the aquifer assessment, which is estimated to take up to five years to conduct. The Pinelands Commission will publish annual reports on the progress of the study.
Prior to initiating the aquifer assessment, the DEP in cooperation with the Pinelands Commission and other partnering agencies will conduct a public hearing to present and seek public comment on the study's scope of work and research plans.
Through an act of legislation, the funding for the aquifer assessment is being made available through the DEP's Water Supply Fund. The fund was established through repayment of principal on loans for local projects funded under the Water Supply Bond Act of 1981.
In addition to the $5.5 million agreement with the New Jersey Pinelands Commission, the DEP also has signed a $2 million agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to assess and prepare a report on sustainable potable and ecological water supply alternatives within Cape May County. The study will include a county-wide ground water hydrological assessment, a county-wide water supply cost effectiveness study, and a county-wide water supply design.
Under the enacting legislation, the USGS and other partners will identify water conservation and re-use methods to protect the potable and ecological water supply of Cape May County. The studies, surveys and assessments will include analyses of potential future water supply demands based on future development possibilities and environmental constraints within Cape May.
During the assessment, the DEP may issue approvals or allocations for increased ground water withdrawals in Cape May County only upon finding that such new withdrawals will not accelerate salt water intrusion, lower existing stream base flow or harm ecological functions or wildlife.
The funding for the Cape May assessment also is being made available through the DEP's Water Supply Fund. Partners in the study include DEP, USGS, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
As is the case in the Pinelands Commission study, the Cape May study requires that the DEP in cooperation with the USGS and other partnering agencies conduct a public hearing to present and seek public comment on the study's scope of work and research plans.
The information provided as a result of both the Pinelands and Cape May studies will establish a better scientific understanding of the aquifers in southern New Jersey. Study results will also improve our ability to manage water resources to avoid future drought emergencies and severe water deficits that adversely impact communities.