On July 17, 2012, Department of Environmental Proptection Comissioner Bob Martin anounced that 21 Counties have updated their sewer maps in order to priovide clear direction on where sewer service and potential development is approprate, while protecting nearly 210,000 acres of environmentally sensitve lands. The NJDEP Alert issued on July 17 summaries the current status:
Counties and municipalities across the state worked with the DEP since January to meet a July 15 deadline set by the Legislature to submit to the DEP either a sewer service area map or full wastewater management plans. These plans had been stalled for several years due to unworkable rules set up by a previous administration that left vulnerable lands unprotected and put counties in a no-win bureaucratic bind.
“This is truly a milestone for New Jersey, one made possible by the Christie Administration’s commitment to working toward common sense solutions to complex issues,” Commissioner Martin said. “As a result, we are making sure environmentally sensitive areas such as the Barnegat Bay watershed, the Pinelands, and the Highlands, get the protection they deserve while removing an unnecessary hurdle to economic growth left to us by the previous administration.”
Sewer service area maps steer development to areas such as those identified by the State Planning Commission as suitable for growth and away from environmentally sensitive areas. They are part of overall Water Quality Management Plans that counties are required to update under state law.
The maps, which the DEP is currently reviewing, will protect large, contiguous areas of ecologically sensitive lands such as wetlands, stream corridors, endangered species habitats and natural heritage priority sites.
“Updating New Jersey’s sewer service areas represents a real milestone,” said Peter Kasabach, Executive Director of New Jersey Future, a smart growth policy and planning group. “Once the county plans are formally approved by the DEP, we will be able to know the locations where development can occur in a sustainable way near infrastructure and away from environmentally sensitive areas.”
Sixteen counties met the July 15 legislated deadline to submit sewer service area maps or full wastewater management plans. In Warren County, municipalities have complied by submitting individual maps by the deadline. Substantial portions of four other counties – Union, Bergen, Hudson, and Passaic – already were in compliance prior to the Legislature’s establishment of the deadline.
As a result of this mapping process, most counties saw a net decrease in the total acreage for sewer service areas. For example, Ocean County and Monmouth County each saw a net reduction in sewer service areas of nearly 50 square miles.
A handful of counties saw slight net increases in acreage of sewer service areas largely due to a desire to protect sensitive Pinelands and coastal ecosystems by concentrating sewer service in designated growth areas.
The sewer service area mapping process had stalled as a result of cumbersome and ultimately unworkable rules adopted by the administration of Governor Corzine in 2008.
Many counties were unable to complete a requirement that that they prepare extremely detailed wastewater management plans, which include detailed projections of growth and sewer capacity. This hampered their ability to complete the sewer service area mapping that is essential to sound planning.
Bipartisan legislation signed by Governor Christie in January of this year gave those counties and municipalities that had not yet done so until July 15 to develop sewer service maps. They do not need to complete the wastewater management plans at this time but must do so in the future. The law did not reduce protections for ecologically sensitive lands.
The DEP has determined that all submitted maps and plans are in compliance with regulatory requirements. The next phase will be a public comment period, with hearings to be scheduled for each county’s plan. The DEP expects the maps to be formally approved this year.
If you would like some additional information, please visit the DEP webite by clicking here.