Water report gives Eagle Ridge go ahead

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:47

    WEST MILFORD-A report by the New Jersey Geological Survey (NJGS) has dented the hopes of residents and politicians battling the proposals for the Eagle Ridge development. Robert Canace and Eric Roman of the Bureau of Water Resources within the NJGS re-visited the area planned for the new homes and dissected point by point the arguments voiced by town officials and expert hydrologists. Red Bank based home builder K. Hovnanian plan to build 280 town houses on the land projected to be known as Eagle Ridge. These plans have been met with fierce opposition from local, county and state politicians as well as local residents and environmentalists. Eagle Ridge adversaries hoped for rejection of the project based on the negative impact on water resources to the new homes and surrounding areas of West Milford. Homes in West Milford rely almost entirely on underground water supply provided by drilled wells. Many believe this water supply has a limited capacity to replenish itself and is already close to, literally, running the well dry. The NJGS report however refutes these claims and responded to contentions that there is insufficient underground water by hydrology professionals Demicco & Associates and M" Associates. The two companies submitted reports to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) questioning the sustainability of water in the area as well as the underground aquifer's ability to recover if new wells were drilled. Despite reports to the contrary, NJGS advises there is enough underground water based on what they believe is reliable data. NJGS also addressed the fears of residents who believe water to their homes could dry up if the new wells are drilled. The report however claims that some residents may in fact receive improved water resource. The report asserts "Hydrogeologic conditions and test results indicate domestic wells that penetrate the same fracture [as the new proposed wells] would experience significant drawdown, but that would have significant available drawdown and likely high yields." The NJGS report could have a significant effect on the well permit application submitted by West Milford MUA for the Eagle Ridge homes. The permit is vital to K. Hovnanian and their plans for the building project. The DEP is currently reviewing the water allocation request and had been expected to respond to the applicant by the end of March. Erin Phalon of the DEP however gave no indication that a decision is imminent. Phalon spoke on Tuesday of this week saying "I cannot estimate when a decision regarding the Eagle Ridge permit will be made." Pleading for the DEP to deny the well permit application is just one of the strategies the township council is using to prevent the development. Requests for the DEP to buy the land have been sent to Trenton along with arguments forwarded to state officials asking them to repeal the laws which allow Hovnanian to be able to build such a significant development in an area of the state preserved by the 2004 Highlands Act. The Highlands Act is designed to protect land in areas including the whole of West Milford from major development. A grandfather clause, however, allows Hovnanian to proceed.