The NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced earlier this month a plan to upgrade the classification and regulations related to hundreds of miles of rivers and streams in Sussex County and beyond.
In a statement on March, 4, DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe
unveiled a proposal to reclassify parts of several major rivers and their tributaries to Category One. The Category One designation requires stringent water quality standards for any waste water discharged to the waterways. These areas will also be given 300-foot development buffers as part of the Flood Hazard Area Control Act to protect threatened and endangered wildlife in the area.
This reclassification includes parts of Wallkill, Paulinskill, and Pequest Rivers in Sussex and Warren Counties as well as other rivers throughout the state. In total, the DEP proposes to upgrade 734 waterway miles
for their “exceptional ecological value” and 53 miles for their “exceptional fishery resources” with 38 miles overlapping in both categories. These changes will serve as amendments to the Surface Water Quality Standards Rule.
The new designations will also benefit many tributaries and streams feeding to the reclassified portions of the rivers, including a Wallkill River tributary in nearby Sparta, NJ, according to the rule proposal published in the New Jersey Register.
The classification system began in 1985 in order to protect bodies of water integral to wildlife habitats and trout production. The last time NJ waterways were reclassified was back in 2008, when the state designated 686 miles of rivers and streams to Category One.
Let Your Voice Be Heard
The reclassification poses more stringent regulations for companies that dispose wastewater in these areas. In fact, the Category 1 status prevents any degradation in water quality
for the rivers, streams, and tributaries affected by the reclassification.
The DEP will hold a public hearing on April 8 at 1 p.m.
in the NJ Forensic Science Technology Center Auditorium to discuss the changes. The period for public comments is open
from now until May 3.
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