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December 11, 2003

Contact: Peter Boger
(609) 984-1795

Dam Overflow Also Demonstrates Need for Dam Repair Funding

(03/180) TRENTON -- New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell today reminded residents of the importance of new stormwater regulations that will soon be in place as a means of reducing flooding and minimizing the harmful effects of pollution in stormwater runoff.

“Governor McGreevey’s smart growth initiatives aim to alleviate many of the problems caused by overdevelopment and sprawl paving over our critical watershed lands,” said Commissioner Campbell. “By building smarter and controlling stormwater we can protect our drinking water and aquifers while reducing the frequency of flooding such as occurred today.”

With almost two inches of rain falling in some portions of New Jersey during the last 24 hours, the combined rain and melting snow have created flooding problems across the state, such as minor flooding on Assunpink Creek in Trenton.

DEP’s proposed stormwater rules, which should be adopted by early next year, will help reduce flooding incidents by requiring new development designs to recharge rainfall into groundwater. Recharging underground aquifers not only bolsters drinking water supplies and mitigates the effects of droughts, but also reduces the amount of rainwater that quickly runs off during storms, leading to flooding such as New Jersey experienced today.

The stormwater rules would also protect the quality of New Jersey’s drinking water by limiting the amount of pollution carried by flooding and normal stormwater into our lakes and streams. The rules require municipalities to implement common sense programs, such as measures to cover the salt and sand piles used for road maintenance during snowy weather so that they do not unnecessarily erode and wash into our drinking water.

“Few people realize the overwhelming impact of everyday litter and materials running off into our stormwater systems,” Campbell said. “Through these innovative stormwater programs, we can better manage ordinary things – such as lawn products, pet waste, and the trash from our garbage cans – and help create a cleaner, safer water future for New Jersey.”

DEP has proposed two sets of rules related to stormwater. The first set of proposals will update the state’s Stormwater Management Rules, which have not been updated since their original adoption in 1983. The rules stress new performance standards for ground water recharge, including both water quality and quantity controls, and require maintaining 100 percent of the average annual groundwater recharge statewide.

Consistent with Governor McGreevey’s Smart Growth initiative, these rules further promote redevelopment in New Jersey’s urban and older suburban areas by waiving the 100 percent recharge requirement in these areas. The rules also promote Smart Growth through the use of low impact site development techniques for stormwater management systems designed to maintain natural vegetation and drainage.

In addition to the recharge standards, the regulations also stress water quality controls. Statewide, these rules require the implementation of Best Management Practices (BMPs) for new development in order to reduce pollution runoff levels by up to 80 percent.

The second set of stormwater control proposals will require municipalities, highway systems and major public complexes to develop control plans for stormwater runoff resulting from both existing and new development. DEP will provide support to municipalities in preparing these new water protection rules and initiatives.

Municipalities will be required to take common sense steps to reduce non-point source pollution, such as limiting unnecessary pesticide and fertilizer treatments of lawns, properly disposing of yard and pet waste, retrofitting of storm sewer grates and better managing of municipal maintenance yards.

The Commissioner also noted that the last day’s rainfall had contributed to the overflow flooding at the Wadsworth Dam in Gloucester County. While the dam itself does not appear to have been damaged, it is one of the state’s High Hazard Dams that had been particularly mentioned in debates leading up to the passage of Ballot Question No. 3 during the November election.

“Flooding at a High Hazard Dam underscores the urgent need for the source of funding provided by Ballot Question No. 3 for public and private dam repairs to protect communities from possibly significant harm,” said Campbell.

The state classifies a dam as “High Hazard” if the failure of the dam may result in probable loss of life and/or extensive property damage.



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