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Watershed
Restoration
THE CLEAN WATER BOOK:
CHOICES FOR WATERSHED PROTECTION
     
CHAPTER 12:
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
 

In addition to the many things you can do as an individual to help reduce nonpoint source pollution, there are also ways that you can become involved at the community level. You may want to inquire from your municipal clerk if your municipality has an environmental commission. If not, you might want to work with others in your community to encourage your local government to have one. If an environmental commission does exist, find out what they are doing and support their efforts.

Also, see if there are any active local programs or organizations who focus on environmental concerns and actions within your community. If none exist, consider organizing your own. Organizations in nearby communities can be contacted for assistance in how to start and organize your own community environmental group. If you decide to join an existing organization or start a new one, there is a wide range of potential activities that can assist in raising awareness about nonpoint source pollution and the value of local water resources in general.

New Jersey is fortunate in having a large number of active statewide and regional organizations who focus on water protection. To find out whether there is a watershed association or other environmental organization in your area, call the municipal clerk's office or visit the Watershed Institute web site at www.thewatershed.org.

DEP offers a number of more technical documents to help you to become more knowledgeable on water quality issues. If you choose to become more involved in watershed management, stormwater control and nonpoint source pollution issues, visit the Department's stormwater web site at www.njstormwater.org or www.cleanwaternj.org.

 

AWARENESS ACTIVITIES

Cleanup Days
Invite your neighbors and residents of the community to come and remove litter and other debris from your local stream or lake. Contact your local Clean Communities Coordinator for information on how to organize a cleanup. This activity can be followed by a picnic or other activities so that the event is fun as well as useful.

Storm Drain Labeling
Encourage students or youth organizations (e.g., scouts and watershed groups) to label storm drains in order to raise awareness that what goes down the storm drain goes into local waterways. Stenciling or using manufactured plastic or metal markers with text such as "Drains to Lake" helps get the message out.

Recreational Events
Plan boating or canoe trips to get to know your stream. These are also useful to enlighten local officials and the press about the value of your local waterway and concerns about its future.

Community Event Participation
If special events such as fairs and festivals are held in your community, this is an opportunity to reach a new audience by setting up a table to distribute materials or holding some type of educational program or event.

Local School Involvement
Volunteer to speak to local students about nonpoint source pollution and what can be done at a local level. Hold a poster, bumper sticker or essay contest on an NPS or water related theme.

Environmental Education Walks
Invite area experts to participate and share their knowledge about the stream's animal and plant life. Make the event a family occasion and include fishing, swimming and hiking as appropriate.

Water Quality Monitoring
Monitoring water quality can provide valuable information about the health of the waterway and also serves as an educational tool for students and the community.

Monitor Soil Erosion
Some community groups have actively monitored agricultural and construction sites for violation of State laws relating to erosion and soil loss.

Adopt a Street Program
You can encourage residents to adopt a road or street for regular cleaning and maintenance. The NJDOT has a similar program called "Adopt a Highway." Your communities can start something similar to this on a local level.

 

GETTING INVOLVED IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Since 2004, all New Jersey municipalities must develop and implement a stormwater program in order to comply with their Municipal Stormwater General Permit (www.njstormwater.org/sw_guidance.htm). Through the permitting process, municipalities develop Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans, conduct outreach to their residents, adopt ordinances, and implement appropriate Best Management Practices. Contact your local municipality (www.nj.gov/nj/govinfo/county/localgov/html) or local environmental organizations to find out what is being done on a local or regional basis and how you can participate within your community.

The following are municipal and county organizations that play a role in combating nonpoint source pollution:

  • Health Departments have the authority to focus on NPS as part of their ongoing program activities, such as complaint inspections, water sampling, dye testing and enforcement of various health and sanitation codes. They will probably be aware of all NPS control programs in your area and they can tell you about them. Visit www.nj.gov/health/lh/local.shtml for a list of local health departments.
  • Environmental Commissions should be sensitive to NPS considerations as they review new development projects. They can also play an important role in public education concerning NPS problems affecting the community. Visit www.anjec.org for a listing of environmental commissions.
  • Municipal and Public Works Departments are chiefly responsible for road repair and reconstruction, snow plowing and leaf collection. Other jobs include providing special services, like street sweeping and cleaning of catch basins and storm sewers on a regular basis. This work can result in reporting NPS problems that affect their areas and can be helpful in controlling NPS.
  • The municipal agency that is responsible for parks and recreational activities should be involved in awareness programs.
  • Planning Boards have a tremendous impact on municipal land use. Their role and responsibilities include adopting appropriate ordinances for stormwater and nonpoint source pollution control. The Planning Board's key function is to regulate land use through the preparation of municipal master plans, zoning ordinances and site plan review for new construction. Board members face decisions on many environmental issues related to NPS.
  • Zoning Boards of Adjustments are responsible for the interpretation of zoning ordinances passed by the Planning Board. They have the power to grant variances under certain circumstances, thereby allowing deviations from zoning ordinances and adding a certain amount of flexibility in land use. This includes the ability to grant variances for NPS related ordinances.
  • Soil Conservation Districts are responsible for soil erosion and sediment control on construction sites, as well as programs to control NPS from agriculture, silviculture and mining operations. Visit www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/anr/nrc/conservdistricts.html for a list of Soil Conservation Districts.
 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

If you choose to become more involved in stormwater control and nonpoint source pollution issues, the DEP has a number of more technical documents available at www.njstormwater.org. In addition, the DEP has a number of water-related publications available for distribution as well as outreach and education programs for further involvement. For more information, contact:

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Division of Watershed Management
401 East State Street
P.O. Box 418
Trenton, NJ 08625-0418
(609) 984-0058

 
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Last Updated: June 8, 2012