CHRISTIE ADMINISTRATION PROPOSES COMMON SENSE OVERHAUL TO WATER QUALITY MANAGEMENT PLANNING RULE
PROPOSED RULE WILL PROVIDE LOCAL GOVERNMENTS WITH FLEXIBILITY IN PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT WHILE SPURRING OPPORTUNITIES FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH
(15/P91) TRENTON – The Christie Administration today proposed a significant overhaul to the state’s Water Quality Management Planning (WQMP) rule that will provide county and local planning agencies with common sense flexibility to maintain high standards of environmental protection while balancing opportunities for appropriate economic growth, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin announced.
The Water Quality Management Planning rule requires local planning agencies to identify areas suitable for wastewater infrastructure based upon the ecological capacity of water bodies to accept future wastewater, as well as other environmental factors.
The proposed WQMP rule, published today in the New Jersey Register, will give county and local planning agencies more flexibility in making land-use decisions and evaluating environmental impacts when mapping areas suitable for wastewater infrastructure. It will also eliminate duplication of overlapping DEP regulatory requirements to provide for greater consistency and clarity as plans are developed.
“These revisions are consistent with the Governor’s goals of reducing unnecessary red tape while maintaining the high standards of environmental protection New Jersey residents expect,” Commissioner Martin said. “Through these rule changes, the DEP is adopting an approach to water quality protection that recognizes that sound planning can and does occur at the local level. We will foster better planning by providing county and local planners with the flexibility to consider a range of options to address issues and solve problems.”
“Through these changes, the DEP will be able to work collaboratively – not as adversaries – with county and local planning agencies, who know their communities best, to achieve the shared goal of sound planning policies that protect the ecologically sensitive areas that ought to be protected and direct development to where it is appropriate,” said Dan Kennedy, DEP’s Assistant Commissioner for Water Resources Management.
The DEP is concurrently proposing a related Capacity Assurance Program (CAP) rule to ensure that wastewater treatment systems avoid overloads that could result in discharges that don’t meet water quality requirements. While the WQMP rule takes a longer-term look at future circumstances and development, the CAP rule focuses on the near-term implementation of capital improvements or other measures to handle today’s flows.
The DEP has been meeting with stakeholders since 2012 to identify and correct numerous problems with the existing Water Quality Management Planning Rule, adopted by a previous administration in 2008. Many counties were unable to complete a requirement that they prepare extremely detailed wastewater management plans, which include detailed projections of growth and sewer capacity, in part because this required zoning impacts that could only be decided at the municipal level. This hampered the adoption of sewer service area mapping that is essential to sound planning and environmental protection.
This rule was also extremely complex, overly broad, lacked flexibility, was duplicative of existing planning requirements, and deterred economic growth in areas where development is appropriate. Despite additional guidance and time provided by both the Legislature and DEP, county planning agencies were having an extremely difficult time meeting deadlines and complying with the rule.
The current rule proposal has been deemed consistent with the goals of the State Development and Redevelopment Plan by the State Smart Growth Ombudsman.
Specifically the proposed rule will:
- Provide for comprehensive planning of water quality infrastructure to better protect the environment in the long term;
- Limit where sewers can be located, thus allowing denser development only in those areas that are not environmentally sensitive and where it is consistent with local zoning;
- Protect groundwater quality by setting goals for nitrate dilution from septic systems;
- Allow counties and other planning entities more flexibility in preparing water quality plans;
- Promote more cooperation between the DEP and counties in finding solutions to environmental issues;
- Allow for the continuation of approvals of sewer service area amendments consistent with environmental standards and local planning objectives;
- Defer to management plans for the Pinelands and Highlands concerning development decisions in those regions; and
- Enhance the DEP’s ability to resolve capacity issues at wastewater treatment plants.
County and local planning agencies will have a year following final adoption of the rule to adopt wastewater management plans. At its discretion, the DEP may choose to develop plans for any agencies that do not meet this deadline.
Today’s publication in the Register triggers a 60-day public comment period ending Dec. 18, 2015. Comments may be submitted electronically at www.nj.gov/dep/rules/comments or in writing to:
Gary J. Brower, Esq.
Attention: DEP Docket Number 10-15-09
Office of Legal Affairs
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
401 East State Street, 7th Floor
Mail Code 401-04L; P.O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402
Public hearings will be held on the following dates:
Tuesday, Nov. 10, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
353 East Hanover Avenue
Morris Township, NJ 07962
Tuesday, Nov. 17, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Gloucester County Clayton Complex
1200 Delsea Drive
Clayton, NJ 08312
Monday, Nov. 30, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
DEP Public Hearing Room
401 East State Street
Trenton, NJ 08625
For more information, including FAQs, guidance documents and the full versions of the WQMP rule proposal and concurrent CAP rule proposal, please visit: http://www.nj.gov/dep/wrm/wqmprule.html