Highlands Act rules implemented

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:48

    TRENTON-Regulatory standards for the implementation of the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act were released Tuesday by Commissioner Bradley Campbell of the DEP. The new regulations, which involve issues including septic density and the permit application review process, take effect immediately. "The tough environmental rules released today are critical for the protection of New Jersey's Highlands region," said Campbell. "These rules also begin a close partnership with the Highlands Council to ensure that the final regulations work in concert with the regional master plan." The Highlands Act prescribes regulatory standards for the Preservation Area including the protection of open waters and buffers, rare, threatened and endangered species habitat, exemptions, impervious coverage limits and the prohibition of new public water systems. The legislation directs DEP to establish the standards announced Tuesday. The rules establish standards regarding the following: • Permit Review: The regulations consolidate the review processes required for projects in the Highlands that require multiple permits. DEP will provide the Highlands Council copies of all applications, notify the public of applications and seek public comments. • Septic Systems: The rules protect existing water quality by establishing septic density requirements based on differences in groundwater quality in heavily forested and disturbed areas. * Historic and Archaeological Resources: The rules establish procedures for the identification and protection of historic and archaeological resources. • Unique and Irreplaceable Resources: The rules will help protect parks, reserves vernal habitats and New Jersey Natural Heritage Program-identified ecological communities by regulating activities that impact the communities. DEP will accept comments regarding its Highlands rules from the Departments of Community Affairs, Agriculture, Transportation and the Highlands Council for a 45-day period prior to rule proposal. DEP will then revise and propose the immediately effective regulations. The final regulatory standards must be adopted within one year. The New Jersey Highlands covers 1,250-square-mile area of the northwest part of the state, and West Milford lies entirely within its boundries. It includes portions of seven counties and 87 municipalities. Sixty-four percent of New Jersey residents, about 5.4 million people, receive their water from the Highlands.