New Jersey announces new stringent stormwater rules
In his strongest move to date to protect New Jersey's drinking water and to stop sprawl, Governor James E. McGreevey has announced the formal adoption of two sets of stormwater rules that protect water quality and preserve the integrity of drinking water supplies statewide.
300-foot buffer will apply to more than 6,000 miles of waterways
CLOSTER, NJ, Jan. 26, 2004 -- In his strongest move to date to protect New Jersey's drinking water and to stop sprawl, Governor James E. McGreevey has announced the formal adoption of two sets of stormwater rules that protect water quality and preserve the integrity of drinking water supplies statewide.
The rules will minimize the impact of hundreds of new development projects, encouraging recharge of rainwater into the ground and controlling development within a 300-foot buffer around more than 6,000 miles of high quality waterways, McGreevey said during his announcement Jan. 5.
"As we stand here today, special interests are asking the courts to overturn our previous actions to protect drinking water and open space. Our actions today demonstrate that we will not back down-our efforts to protect drinking water will only get stronger, not weaker.
"These stormwater rules are the most comprehensive set of water protections in the nation-no other state has required statewide 300-foot buffers around its high quality waters. They will prove to be a critical tool in our fight against sprawl."
Standing near the banks of the Anderson Brook, one of the tributaries of the Oradell Reservoir, the Governor used today's event to highlight a local development project that will have to be extensively redesigned as a result of the stormwater rules in order to prevent the degradation of this tributary to an important drinking water resource. Joining him at the announcement were Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell, Closter Mayor Fred Pitofsky, Rivervale Mayor George Paschalis, and local and statewide environmental advocates.
National and state environmental leaders have hailed New Jersey's new stormwater rules as among the most comprehensive and most protective of any state's rules. While at least six other states provide for protective buffers and groundwater recharge in certain areas, no other state calls for a 300-foot buffer around all of its C1 waterbodies and no net loss of recharge into underground aquifers.
"This is the most important and significant action taken yet to protect New Jersey's water since the passage of the Freshwater Wetlands Act in 1988," said Jeff Tittel, Executive Director of the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club. "These stormwater rules prove that Governor McGreevey is a national leader in protecting water quality and stopping sprawl. This is a huge victory for our environment."
"With these rules, Governor McGreevey has taken the single, largest step of any state in the nation to protect drinking water, the environment and future generations," said Maya von Rossum, the Delaware River Keeper. "He has set the standard for the rest of the nation to follow. I can think of no better way to bring in the New Year than with these new protections."
The first set of adopted rules updates the state's Stormwater Management Rules for the first time since their original adoption in 1983. The rules provide the basis for municipalities to develop stormwater management plans and also will affect requirements of several state-issued permits such as freshwater wetlands and stream encroachment permits.
The second set of adopted stormwater rules requires municipalities, large public complexes such as hospitals, and highway systems to develop stormwater management programs through the New Jersey Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NJPDES) permit program. The new NJDPES permits address requirements of the federally mandated Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Phase II stormwater rules published in December 1999.
One of the most significant provisions of the new rules is the requirement of a 300-foot buffer minimizing new development to protect Category One (C1) waterbodies. C1 protection is the highest form of water quality protection in the state, preventing any measurable deterioration in the existing water quality. The buffers will significantly protect critical drinking water and sensitive ecological resources from degradation by additional pollutants.
The rules provide for some flexibility on the size of the buffers in areas where stormwater management plans have been approved and for minor disturbances around existing development within the 300-foot buffer. The rules also apply the buffer to tributaries of C1 waterbodies within the immediate watershed boundary that are not themselves designated C1 waterbodies.
In total, the buffers will impact 6,093 stream miles - including the 3,307 miles of currently designated C1 rivers and streams and an additional 2,786 miles of non-C1 tributaries to C1 streams.
Since taking office, Governor McGreevey has made C1 protection of important drinking water resources one of his top environmental priorities. Last Earth Day, he designated nine reservoirs totaling more than 7,000 acres and serving over 3.5 million residents as C1 waterbodies. He has also proposed an additional 500 miles of ecologically sensitive streams and rivers for C1 designation.
The Stormwater Management Rules also stress performance standards for ground water recharge to increase the integrity of the state's aquifers. They establish a goal of maintaining 100 percent of the average annual groundwater recharge for new development projects, a major initiative toward mitigating future droughts and flooding.
In addition to recharge standards, the regulations also stress water quality controls, such as best management practices to reduce runoff of total suspended solids (TSS) by 80 percent and other pollutants up to the maximum extent feasible. The rules promote smart growth techniques, stressing low impact site designs for stormwater management systems that maintain natural vegetation and drainage and reduce clear-cutting and the unnecessary loss of trees. Many of the rules are waived and streamlined in urban areas, however, promoting urban redevelopment while still protecting the environment.
"Some studies estimate that more than half of existing surface water pollution in the state is attributable to non-point source pollution and stormwater runoff," said Commissioner Campbell. "By enacting these rules, Governor McGreevey has kept his promise to take a firm stand against sprawl, calling for common sense strategies to ensure that pollution from development and from everyday litter does not poison our water supplies."
The DEP will issue the new NJDPES permits required by the second set of stormwater rules for all municipalities; large public complexes such as colleges, prisons, and hospitals; and highway systems operated by counties and other government agencies, such as the NJ Department of Transportation and the South Jersey Transportation Authority. All permittees will be required to develop and to adopt stormwater management programs for new development.
In addition, permittees will have to develop public education programs and waste disposal controls for existing developed areas. These regulations affecting existing development address a significant oversight in current regulations that only focus on new development.
One of the most important focuses of this set of stormwater rules is its emphasis on public education. Few people realize the impact of everyday litter on their sources of drinking water. By promoting public awareness campaigns, these rules will help citizens realize that every person plays a critical role in keeping our drinking water safe and clean.
The programs will emphasize common sense steps toward reducing non-point source pollution, such as discouraging unnecessary applications of pesticides, requiring proper disposal of yard and pet waste, retrofitting of storm sewer grates and improving municipal maintenance yard management.
The state developed both sets of stormwater control measures with significant input from regulated communities, including the New Jersey League of Municipalities, the New Jersey County Planners Association, and the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions. Developers, mayors, and environmental groups were also heavily consulted in the rulemaking process.
Both sets of rules were originally proposed on January 6, 2003 and were subject to an extensive public comment period. The adopted rules will appear in the February 2, 2004 New Jersey Register.
NOTE: The rule adoptions are now available on the DEP web site at http://www.nj.gov/dep/rules/adoptions.html.
* NJDEP-Division of Watershed Management
* NJDEP-Municipal Stormwater Regulation Program
* NJDEP-Rules and Regulations