The Department’s Water Quality Management Planning program originates from the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, commonly referred to as the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C 1251 et seq.). Sections 201, 208 and 303 of the Clean Water Act provided a framework for water quality planning in the State.
A historic and legal basis for the Water Quality Management Planning Program can be found at here.
One of the tools the Department utilizes to assure that both current decision making and future planning adequately take into account protection of water quality and quantity is the Water Quality Management Planning rule, N.J.A.C. 7:15. The Department develops and administers this rule in conjunction with the Statewide WQM Plan, which together constitute the continuing planning process conducted pursuant to the NJ Water Quality Planning Act and as required by Sections 303(e) and 208 of the Federal Clean Water Act. Accordingly, the WQM Planning rules prescribe water quality management policies, procedures and standards.
In accordance with the Water Quality Management Planning Act and Section 208 of the Clean Water Act, the governor designated twelve areawide Water Quality Management Planning Areas in New Jersey:
The areawide WQM plans (formerly known as 208 plans), as part of the Statewide WQM Plan, are umbrella plans, each with various adopted components that address different aspects of water resource planning.
Wastewater management plans (WMPs) assess the cumulative water resource impact of future development, are a component of the areawide WQM plans. Total maximum daily loads (TMDLs), which address existing water quality impairment and establish an implementation plan to restore the water quality of those waters, are another component of the areawide plans. The individual components are adopted into the appropriate areawide WQM plan in order to give them effect.
According to the Water Quality Management Planning Act and the Water Quality Management Planning rule, N.J.A.C. 7:15, the Commissioner of the DEP shall not undertake, or authorize through the issuance of a permit, any project or activity that affects water quality and conflicts with the applicable sections of adopted WQM Plans or the Statewide WQM Planning rules. Therefore, the Department conducts consistency determination reviews of project proposals, permit applications, and/or draft permits prior to permit issuance to verify that the projects are consistent with, or not addressed by, the applicable areawide Water Quality Management Plan or WMPs. The rules establish a mechanism for the determination of consistency between proposed projects or activities requiring departmentally issued permits and the WQM Plans.
In addition, procedures for the modification of water quality management plans, when necessary, either through amendment or revision, are also specified. The revision process has two separate tracks – one that is solely to address documented errors in the existing WQM Plans, and the other to address certain specified minor changes to the WQM Plan, provided that they comply with the environmental standards, do not conflict with regional environmental plans, and no significant individual or cumulative impacts will occur to environmentally sensitive areas or other natural resources (such as water supplies). Revisions to the WQM plans undergo a simpler review process, but still must verify that there is no potential for significant environmental impact prior to adoption.
The amendment process also has two separate tracks – one that addresses project-specific amendments under specified size limitations, and the other which amends the WQM Plans for entire wastewater management planning areas of municipal size or larger. Proposed amendments to the areawide WQM plans are reviewed and approved or denied by the designated planning agencies with approved plan amendment procedures and/or the Department subsequent to a public notification and comment period. However, plan amendments approved by designated planning agencies are only valid upon adoption by the Department as the Governor’s designee.
Guidance and application forms for Consistency Determinations, Amendments, and Revisions can be found at Applications Page.
For additional information on Water Quality Management Planning, please contact us.