Public Hearing on NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP)
 Highlands Rule Proposed Amendments

Time:  6:00 pm Monday, July 11, 2016
Location:  Montclair State University, Center for Environmental & Life Sciences (CELS) Rm 120
NJDEP denied the request made by 27 organizations to schedule hearings in a addition to the one held on June 1 in Chester, and to include locations outside of the Highlands that depend on Highlands water. Click HERE for more information.

Your oral comments  will be recorded, transcribed and delivered to NJDEP prior to the July 15 public comment deadline. 
Talking Points for (optional) Oral Comments:
1.  Do not degrade Highlands Water. The overriding purpose of the 2004 Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act was to protect the Highlands Region’s critical water supply for over six million people. The NJDEP was charged with adopting stringent land use regulations for the most environmentally sensitive, largely forested, half of the Highlands -- the Preservation Area -- in order to achieve this protection.  The changes now proposed backslide on the level of protection by increasing the number of allowed residential development on septic systems, without any clear justification, violating the non-degradation mandates of the Highlands Act

2. The increased residential development permitted by the proposed changes will threaten not only water supply, forests, farmland, and wildlife habitat, including that of rare, threatened and endangered species, but the increased impervious cover from more roofs, roads, driveways, patios, etc.. which will degrade water quality and increase flooding. 

3.  NJDEP has many more appropriate and pressing issues to address than weakening regulations that protect our critical water resources.  For example, the presence of lead and other toxins in NJ water, inefficient and failing infrastructure that wastes up to 25% of our treated  water and updating the overdue Statewide Water Supply Plan,  now  twenty-five  years out of date.

4. Bad science.  In order to determine how many additional septic systems could be allowed without degrading the quality of groundwater, DEP had to determine the amount of nitrates already in the groundwater. They sampled primarily developed areas, where the level of nitrates are higher than the undeveloped, pristine areas. DEP is applying the higher concentration of nitrates as the level that the pristine areas could sustain before degradation would occur. This is a misapplication of the science and contrary to the intent of the Highlands Act because it is the undeveloped, forested areas, that the Act intended to retain in pristine conditions, in order to protect their water quality and water supply protection capabilities.  

5. With this rule, the NJDEP is responding to the development pressures that the Highlands Act intended to protect against.  The NJDEP is misguided in its proposal because there is no provision of the Highlands Act that justifies the action, nor is the Department responding to a judicial order. The proposal is responsive only to narrow interests that would benefit by an increase in the development potential of the Preservation Area, a perverse interest for the Department of Environmental Protection to elevate above all others.  

6.  NJDEP should focus on redevelopment as opposed to new “greenfields” development in the Highlands.  Promoting new development in the core forests of the Highlands Preservation Area rather than existing developed areas is contrary to the central objectives and goals of the Highlands Act.

7.  Once a water resource is lost to development it is lost forever!  The contiguous forests of the Highlands Preservation Area act as a natural and cost free water filtration system. Conversion of forested land by development permanently destroys the ecological services provided by the forest cover, reducing the ability of the Preservation Area to provide these services. This natural forest filter reduces the need for expensive chemical treatment of water supplies. The State has a fundamental responsibility to protect these natural resources and the values they provide us --not further degrade them.

8. The forested Preservation Area is a hugely valuable, public trust resource that will only increase in value as the climate warms. The value of the Preservation Area—as a carbon sink, a heat sink, a water filtration system—is embodied in its pristine, undisturbed, non-fragmented condition. It is our responsibility to maintain these values for subsequent generations, not to extinguish these values for the short term benefit of narrow interests 

Directions to the Center for Environmental and Life Sciences building from the MSU Red Hawk Parking Deck. Also, watch for our signs directing you from the parking deck to the hearing location.
​About the New Jersey Highlands Coalition

We represent a diverse network of organizations - small and large, local, regional, statewide and national - and individuals with the common goal to protect, enhance and restore the New Jersey Highlands and to preserve the quality and quantity of drinking water both for the 850,000 people in the Highlands as well as the more than 4.6 million people in Northern and Central New Jersey who depend on Highlands water. For more information visit our website:

Thank you for all of your support! 
508 Main Street | Boonton | New Jersey | 07005