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Proposed Water Quality Management Planning (WQMP) Rules
Frequently Asked Questions

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection proposed new Water Quality Planning Rules (WQMP) on October 19, 2015.  These proposed new rules would replace the existing WQMP rules to improve the State’s water quality and ensure a sufficient supply of water for New Jersey.  The proposed rules will also streamline DEP’s current water quality management requirements and procedures.

  •  What is the purpose of the Water Quality Planning Rules?

    The WQMP rules help implement certain portions of New Jersey’s Water Quality Planning Act.  The purpose of this Act, which was enacted into law in 1977, is to protect and, where possible restore, New Jersey’s surface water (rivers, lakes, and streams) and ground water resources (aquifers, underground streams, etc.).  
  • Why is the Department proposing changes to the WQMP?

    The current rules, which have been in place since in 2008, have not been sufficiently effective in protecting and restoring New Jersey’s water resources.  They have also been difficult to implement and hard to comply with.  In response to concerns about the current rules, the New Jersey Legislature passed laws in 2011 and 2013 designed to address, in the short-term, some of those concerns.  The laws also directed DEP to develop long-term solutions to the problems with the current WQMP rules.
  • How has DEP developed these proposed new rules?

    DEP initiated stakeholder meetings in 2012 to solicit constructive suggestions about how to address the many deficiencies in the current WQMP rule.  The solutions advanced in the proposed WQMP rule recognize the importance of preserving and protecting our water across the state while also promoting economic growth in those places where such growth is appropriate.

    Accordingly, the proposed rule replaces the current cumbersome rule with new requirements that streamline reviews, eliminate duplication of regulatory requirements, and implement a comprehensive and environmentally protective water quality protection program.  These proposed rules strike an appropriate balance between environmental protection and the support of economic growth.
  • Didn’t the 2008 WQMP rules expire?

    Yes, the 2008 WQMP rules were scheduled to expire in May, 2015.  Because DEP had not yet completed the process of drafting the proposed new rule, DEP re-adopted the WQMP rule without changes on April 10, 2015.  This provided the additional time needed to draft the proposed new WQMP rules.
  • Why not just fix the 2008 WQMP rules instead of replacing them entirely?

    The 2008 rules were envisioned as a planning tool for wastewater management but, in practice, they became a rigid regulatory tool that did not accomplish their central goal: protecting water quality.  The 2008 rule didn’t allow for innovative solutions, duplicated other water permitting requirements, and didn’t provide flexibility to meet future changes. DEP’s proposed new WQMP rules will streamline the planning process and better integrate it with existing permitting programs.
  • What, specifically, does the WQMP Rule proposal entail?

    Specifically, the proposed new WQMP rule establishes procedures and standards for:

    1) Amendments to areawide water quality management (WQM) plans;
    2) The development of wastewater management plans (WMPs);
    3) The development of the list of water quality limited waters; and
    4) Adoption of total maximum daily load (TMDL) criteria.
    The proposed new WQMP rules also establishes a grant program to assist watershed management groups in carrying out watershed management activities,

  • Do the proposed WQMP rules protect threatened and endangered species (T&E) habitat in proposed sewer service areas? 

    The proposed new WQMP rule is very protective of threatened and endangered species habitat.  The new rule continues to prohibit the extension of sewer service area into environmentally sensitive areas, such as T&E habitat, except under very limited and specific conditions.
  • What are those conditions?

    The proposed new rule continues to allow for the submission of a Habitat Suitability Determination (HSD) to challenge, using rigorous scientific analysis, the identification of certain areas on DEP’s Landscape Project Maps as T&E species habitat.

    The proposed new rule also allows for the submission of a Habitat Impact Analysis (HIA).  This analysis would provide some flexibility with confirmed T&E habitat through an applicant’s agreement to minimize or mitigate impacts to the habitat.  This new process allows for the review of a proposed project for inclusion in the sewer service area only for the following reasons:

    1. The proposed projects avoids the habitat;
    2. The proposed project will cause only insignificant or discountable effects to the wildlife habitat or certain natural resources; or
    3. The proposed project includes conservation measures that will minimize, to the maximum extent practicable, all adverse modification of suitable habitat and will mitigate for any adverse modification of habitat so that there is no net loss of habitat value for the local population of documented endangered or threatened wildlife species on-site, or to their suitable habitat.

In addition, DEP is proposing to provide special consideration for demonstrating minimization and mitigation for agriculturally dependent endangered and threatened wildlife species. 

Finally, the Department is also adding flexibility to the delineation process if the area proposed to be included in the sewer service area is in a CAFRA growth area, and is proposed to address a public health problem or is infill.

  • Will the proposed WQMP rule continue to protect New Jersey’s water?

    Protecting the quality of New Jersey’s waters and ensuring a sufficient supply of water to meet the needs of all New Jerseyans is the central focus of the proposed WQMP rule.  By providing greater clarity, eliminating regulatory duplication, and streamlining the permitting process, the proposed new WQMP rule fixes the problems the Legislature identified in the existing rule, and strengthens the state’s ability to protect, and where practicable restore, New Jersey’s water.


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