Statement May 4, 2009

Abigail Fair, Water Resource Education

 

Senator Paul Sarlo and Members

Senate Legislative Oversight Committee

State House, Trenton, NJ

 

SUBJ:  Implementation of the Water Quality Management Rules

 

My name is Abigail Fair.  I am here on behalf of the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions and its 2800 members.  We are a state-wide educational, non-profit organization serving environmental commissions, local officials and the public.  ANJEC aims to promote the public interest in natural resources preservation and sustainable development.  Please consider the following information.   

 

Authority to Protect Environmentally Sensitive Areas

The Water Quality Management Plan regulations under Section 208 of the Clean Water Act are to prevent water resource degradation from point and non-point sources of pollution.

 

The original, 1990 WMP regulations did not require plans to protect waters from secondary or non-point source impacts caused by zoned-for growth that the wastewater infrastructure would have to support.  As a result, in 2000 Governor Whitman acted to correct this problem by issuing Executive Order 109, which has been in place until these new regulations incorporated the EO 109 provisions.  It directs DEP to insure that WMPs examine alternatives, depletive and consumptive water use, pollutant loading and to conduct an environmental build-out analysis to take into account the constraints to development from the presence of environmentally sensitive areas.

 

Rules Try to Implement Smart Growth and Prevent Expensive Sprawl

Sprawl is expensive. It’s expensive as we pay for construction or expansion of new or expanded roads, water supply, traffic congestion.   New Jersey has tried to encourage centered development through the State Plan, through Smart Growth grants, through Highlands protection.  Fiscal impact analysis of the State Plan conclusively shows that centered development is much more economically feasible than sprawl.

 

The Rules Should Be Stronger

 Although the WMP rules’ purpose is to prevent degradation of water resources, they allow for development outside of urban and suburban areas and provide lower standards for clustered development. At the same time, the rules require protection of environmentally sensitive areas only if they are over 25 acres in size.  This provision is of particular concern to us.  It means smaller environmentally sensitive areas can be disrupted and damaged.  It means future public expense in correcting problems from disrupting these areas.

 

 

Steep slopes are not counted as environmentally sensitive areas for the build-out analysis.  Open space that is under 10 acres in size is excluded from mapping for the build-out analysis. This is a problem because these areas can then be considered as developable. Use of GIS means the scale of the mapping most often is very broad and doesn’t show important features.

 

The Rules Were not a Surprise

The rules were originally adopted in 1990 with a deadline for compliance of late 1993. 

 

Because of very substantial non-compliance with the 1990 rule deadlines, in October 2005, the Commissioner of the DEP put a public notice in the NJ Register announcing public hearing on rescinding sewer service areas for most of New Jersey.  There was such public outcry at the public hearings that the proposal was withdrawn.  However, nearly all testifiers acknowledged that the action was justified, but that they needed time to comply.  They’ve had three more years. 

 

New Jersey needs the current WMP regulations implemented to protect water resources, to give predictability to building interests and municipalities, and to prevent escalating  costs from sprawl development.