CHESTER - The Highlands Council last week postponed two votes concerning the Tennessee Gas Pipeline projects that run through the Highlands area. The applications are for exemptions for both the Northeast Upgrade Project and the 300 Line Project. These projects include increasing capacity of the existing pipeline and adding new pipeline in the region. The Northeast Upgrade Project will go under the Monksville Reservoir, extending to High Point and Ringwood State Park. The meeting room at the Highlands Council meeting was packed, according to Renee Allessio of West Milford. Opponents of the projects have let the council know of their objections before the meeting in written comments and during the meeting. The Highlands Act was created to protect the environmentally sensitive Highlands area of New Jersey, which supplies water to millions throughout the state. The Highlands Council was put in place to oversee the regulations protecting the water and land in the area. Exemption 11 in the Highlands act allows for "routine maintenance and operations, rehabilitation, preservation, reconstruction, repair or upgrade of public utility lines, rights of way or systems, by a public utility provided that the activity is consistent with the goals and purposes of this act." The Tennessee Gas Pipeline has been in the area over the past year doing work on the projects. Many are unhappy with the wide swath of land that has been cleared for the pipeline work. Allessio is one of them. She told the Highlands Commission she and other residents are concerned with well water contamination, irreversible environmental damage to forests, parks, watershed property and the Monksville Reservoir, deforestation and the security and the costs that go along with protecting such a large gas project. The resolutions prepared for the council would have granted the exemption to Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company for these two projects. The Highlands Council is an advisory council; the state Department of Environmental Protection gives the final decision. The council decided to hold off until its Feb. 16 meeting. It will continue to accept comments from the public. Comments may be sent via fax to 908-879-4205, emailed to Chris.Ross@Highlands.state.nj.us, or via mail to Highlands Council, 100 North Road, Chester NJ 07930. What are your thoughts on the expansion and new work being done in the area by the Tennessee Pipeline? Go to www.westmilfordmessenger.com and let us know.