Home > Uncategorized > NJ Spotlight Drinks Penn Foundation Kool-Aid, Attacks Nationally Leading Government Regulatory Protections

NJ Spotlight Drinks Penn Foundation Kool-Aid, Attacks Nationally Leading Government Regulatory Protections

False and unsourced claim that private voluntary “local action” is more effective than government regulation

Absurd claims used to attack government regulation

NJ Spotlight should have labelled today’s story by Jon Hurdle as “sponsored content”, see:

I almost fell off my chair when I read this factually false and unattributed claim (written in the passive voice too):

Local action underpins the program because it is seen as a more effective response to major threats to water quality like “nonpoint” source pollution — such as runoff from parking lots — than government regulation.

Just who views “local action” as more effective than government regulation?

The incompetent ideologues at the Wm. Penn Foundation?

The Delaware watershed has benefitted from decades of nationally leading state and regional government regulation of land use and water resources – by the Delaware River Basin Commission, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, and the Highlands Council.

The DRBC, the Highlands Act, and DEP’s “Category One” (c1) stream buffer/anti-degradation regulatory program are national models that establish the most stringent and effective land use and water resource protections in the country.  By far. Period.

Those protections dwarf any “local action” – and specifically were imposed to block irresponsible “local action”.

To appease the deep pockets at the Penn Foundation, NJ Spotlight stands this historical and legal reality on its head.

It is an outrageously false claim to say that “local action” is more effective than government regulation, and I will not let that ideologically manufactured falsehood stand.

The NJ Highlands Coalition (HiCo) did not exist prior to passage of the NJ Highlands Act, and is basically a well fed Foundation funded parasite on that Act and the Highlands Regional Master Plan.

HiCo Policy Director Eliot Ruga has a background in TV sports production, not land use planning, water resource protection, or environmental management. To rely on Ruga to support that claim is absurd.

The facts overwhelmingly demonstrate the absurd falsehood of the local action claim.

The US Forest Service Report on the Highlands led to passage of the Highlands Act. The key finding of that USFS Report was that “local action”, i.e. local zoning, would promote and allow massive development that would fragment Highlands forests, destroy critical habitat, and devastate water quality.

A simple way to consider future change would be to simply answer the question, “How much could be built today under the existing zoning and environmental constraints?” Basically, that is the question that build-out analysis seeks to answer. The analysis was expanded to include a few different future policy scenarios to demonstrate different future population distributions. …

Fragmentation and alteration of habitat continue to pose the greatest threat to the biological communities in the Highlands. The rapid expansion of urbanization encroaches on and fragments habitat, destroys individuals as well as populations, and potentially threatens the continued existence of many biological communities. Degradation of habitat by direct destruction or indirectly through pollution,erosion, introduction of invasive species, or fragmentation threatens the existence of species, diminishes natural communities, and reduces genetic variability.  ~~~ NJ/NJ Highlands Regional Study (US Forest Service, 2002)

The Highlands Act and DEP implementing regulation, strictly regulates a 400,000 acre Preservation Area, bans extension of infrastructure, prohibits any reduction in water quality, and set the strictest land use density standard in the country: a whopping 88 acre “septic density standard”.

That one regulatory protection has preserved far more Highlands region Delaware watershed land – and protected water quality from non-point source pollution – than the measly 20,000 acres of “local action”, i.e. purchased lands across the entire 4 state region, cited by NJ Spotlight:

Across the four states, the program’s land-protection efforts have included the purchase of some 19,600 acres since 2014, and an anticipated 20,000 acres in the next three years.

Just one DEP water quality regulation, the Category One buffer program which protects water quality from non-point source pollution via 300 foot wide buffers on each side of C1 designated streams, has done far more to protect water quality, habitat, and restrict land use in the Delaware Watershed than the pathetic “local action” NJ Spotlight cites:

It also works to restore land through projects like planting trees on river banks to control erosion, or building rain gardens to curb stormwater runoff and improve the quality of water-replenishing aquifers.

Remarkably, NJ Spotlight relies on “local action” along Lopatcong Creek as an illustration:

An action plan for the DRWI program in the Highlands cluster, for example, includes work on Lopatcong Creek where advocates aim to reduce pollutants by stepping up public education, using residents to monitor water quality, educating people about water use, and seeking policy change at local government level.

NJ Spotlight fails to note that in 2003, DEP designated Lopatcong Creek as a Category One (C1) “exceptional quality” stream (I worked on that designation while at DEP).

That C1 designation protects land use, habitat and water quality from pro-development local government zoning (read the DEP proposal which also designated C1 for Pohatcong Creek. A prior C1 DEP rule making designated several other Delaware River tributaries as C1 – almost all NJ tributaries downstream to Hopewell Township, Mercer County. Almost 2,000 miles of additional C1 designations, protecting over 100,000 acres of environmentally sensitive lands in the Delaware watershed. Links forthcoming.)

Delaware River Basin

Lopatcong Creek (Phillipsburg) – The Department is proposing to upgrade the use classification and the antidegradation designation of Lopatcong Creek from FW2-TM(C2) to FW2-TP(C1) from Decker Road to Route 57 bridge based on the fish assemblage data. As a result of this proposed upgrade, the description of the segment of the Lopatcong Creek classified as FW2- TP(C1) (including both the segment proposed for upgrade and a segment already classified as FW2-TP(C1)) is amended to indicate that the FW2-TP(C1) stream classification and antidegradation designation is applicable from the source to a point 560 feet upstream of the Penn Central railroad track including all tributaries. The Department is also deleting the stream classification listing of the tributary at Uniontown at N.J.A.C. 7:9B-1.15(d) because the Lopatcong Creek listing will now include all tributaries as FW2-TP(C1). Therefore, this listing is no longer necessary.

The Department retains the use classification and the antidegradation designation of the stream segment from a point 560 feet upstream of the Penn Central railroad track to the confluence of the Delaware River (approximately one quarter of a mile) as FW2-TM(C2).

The Lopatcong Creek is being proposed for trout production status from Decker Road to Route 57 bridge based on fish assemblage sampling data. The headwaters and several downstream segments are already classified as FW2-TP(C1). As a result of previous upgrades, a section of the Lopatcong Creek classified as FW2-TM was left sandwiched in between the trout production segments. The Department sampled this segment on September 12, 2002 and found 11 species of fish, including brown trout (see Table E). Trout production was confirmed by the presence of 23 young-of-the-year brown trout.

Accordingly, the Department is proposing to amend the use classification for Lopatcong Creek from Decker Road to the Route 57 bridge from FW2-TM to FW2-TP(C1). The trout production use classification is also assigned the antidegradation designation of Category One.

Those C1 State government regulatory protections have done FAR more than the “local action” the Penn Foundation supports.

And I haven’t even mentioned the DRBC regulatory role, the federal EPA regulatory oversight under the Clean Water Act, the NJ DEP water quality planning and permit programs, NJ DEP groundwater standards, permits, water allocation, and natural resource protection programs, the Highlands Council’s regulations, or federal and state water resource infrastructure investments.

Penn’s press release even mentions the Kirkwood Cohansey aquifer depletion issue (a stretch for Delaware River impacts). But the best was to address that problem would be for the Pinelands Commission to implement their own scientific findings and establish long delayed new restrictive water allocation limits to preserve ecological functions. But, no, all that is regulatory, and ignored by Penn.

The DEP’s water quality monitoring network is far more spatially comprehensive and samples for more parameters and the DEP water quality assessment is more scientifically rigorous (and has regulatory teeth) than the meager effort touted as “Highlights to date” by the Penn Foundation:

If Wm. Penn were serious, they would invest their big money in science, advocacy  and activism to export the NJ DEP C1 buffer and anti degradation program to Pennsylvania tributaries; establish a Highlands Council like regional planning entity in the long neglected Delaware Bayshore region (and include climate adaptation in its mission); and seek a moratorium of commercial logging of forests under the guise of “stewardship”.

Federal, state and regional government regulatory protections are ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE more  protective of water resources, habitat, and land use than all the private, voluntary “local action” in the entire 4 state region.

Penn Foundation can take its money and shove it.

It is a disgrace that NJ Spotlight would print such blatant falsehoods.

[End Note: NJ Spotlight reporters and the folks at Wm. Penn Foundation should read the entire USFS Highlands Report – and focus on these findings, which “local action” does nothing to influence and are directly controlled and protected by government regulation:

  • As impervious surface cover increased above 10 percent, the overall stream water quality fell from a high water quality standard. A comparison of stream water quality classification and the percentage of impervious surface cover on a HUC-11 watershed basis for New Jersey basins showed that those basins that were ranked as having the highest water quality had an impervious surface cover of 10 percent or less.
  • The number of watersheds with more than 10 percent impervious surface cover could more than triple to quadruple. Analysis shows a general trend towards increasing impervious surface cover, with more than 15 percent of the watershed basins in the year 2000 surpassing the 10 percent threshold. More than 50 percent of basins in the high- constraint scenario to more than 70 percent of basins in the low- constraint scenario had more than 10 percent impervious surface cover.
  • The alteration of riparian zones increased between 1984 and 2000. In 2000 approximately 75 percent of watersheds had riparian zones with more than 25 percent altered land cover. A smaller subset of watersheds (approximately 13 percent), primarily those in agriculture- dominated landscapes, had more than 50 percent of the riparian zone in altered land covers.
  • The two build-out scenarios show different responses in relation to riparian zone protection. In the high-constraint scenario (which incorporated wider wetland buffers), riparian zone development and alteration increased only slightly (to 20 percent) from the situation in 2000, while the low-constraint scenario showed a large increase (to 47 percent). The results of the high-constraint build-out scenario suggest that increasing the buffer distance will help to protect sensitive riparian zones and thereby enhance surface water quality.
  • A threshold of 70 percent or more forest cover was identified as prime habitat for interior nesting birds and raptor species. Analysis of the 1995 New Jersey breeding bird atlas survey block data in relation to the Highlands land use and land cover indicates a signi can’t decline  in the number of observed forest interior species at both the 70 percent and 25 percent levels of forest cover. In the year 2000, 22 percent of the survey blocks were considered prime forest habitat for forest interior nesting birds or raptors. Under the low-constraint scenario, the number of prime forest habitat blocks decreased by 38 percent to where only 13 percent of the Highlands were considered prime forest habitat. • Analysis of interior forest cover shows a steady decline from 15 watersheds in 1984 to only 9 watersheds in 2000 that have more than 40 percent interior forest cover. Under the build-out scenarios, the amount of interior forest habitat further decreased, especially in the low-constraint scenario, in which only 5 watersheds had more than 40 percent interior forest.
  • Water budget analysis of 182 Highlands subwatersheds shows that as impervious surface cover increases, direct-runoff increases, base ow decreases, and evapotranspiration decreases.
  • The predicted rate of change in runoff, base ow, and evapotranspiration increased signi cantly for subwatersheds with a projected increase of 15 percent or more impervious surface cover over conditions existing in 1995.
  • Water budget calculations indicate a potential 50 percent or more increase in runoff, and a 10 percent or more decrease in base ow, in subwatersheds with increases of impervious surface greater than 15 percent.
  • The increase in impervious surface, as projected by the high- and low-constraint build-out scenarios, had a greater impact on changing Highlands water budgets than did the estimated increase in ground water withdrawals by the projected larger population. However, both were predominant factors driving the change in water budgets.
  • Stream ow characteristics would be most affected in HUC 14 subwatersheds drained by the Wallkill, Lamington, Musconetcong, Pequest, Rockaway, Pequannock, Ramapo, and Pompton Rivers, and Lopatcong and Pohatcong Creeks, owing to the increase in impervious surface cover and water withdrawals projected by the future development and population growth scenarios.
  •  KEY FINDINGS: Combining the results of the Conservation Values Assessment and the Econometric Analysis shows that 15 percent or 98,000 acres of the New York – New Jersey Highlands has a high conservation value and a high likelihood of change. Of the land that ranked higher (value of 4) and highest (value of 5) in the Conservation Values Assessment, the following amounts were determined to be unprotected:
  • Water—77 percent of the land most valued for water resources or292,000 acres are unprotected. If all watershed purveyor lands are considered “protected,” then this amount is lowered to 73 percent.
  • Productive forest—50 percent of the land most valued as productive forest or 184,000 acres are unprotected.
  • Contiguous interior forest habitat—53 percent of all interior forests or 219,000 acres are unprotected.
  • Biodiversity—60 percent of the land most valued for biodiversity or 326,000 acres are unprotected.
  • Productive farmland—78 percent of the land most valued as productive farmland or 39,000 acres are unprotected.
  • Recreation—36 percent of the land most valued for recreation or 169,500 acres are unprotected. Of the land that is highly valued for all ve resources (water, productive forest, biodiversity, productive farmland, and recreation) 53 percent or 285,000 acres are unprotected.
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