April 2, 2004
I am writing you as a Mayor of a municipality that receives water from the Highlands Region of northwest New Jersey. New legislation, the "Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act,” has been proposed to preserve the Highlands, an area of exceptional scenic beauty and recreational and historic value, which supplies nearly half the state with drinking water.
The Legislature is currently holding hearings on the proposed legislation. It is important that towns that receive water from the Highlands make their views known to members of the New Jersey Legislature as soon as possible.
At ANJEC, we know that municipalities are the front line in protecting our environment. However, we also recognize that there is a limit to what one community or one county can achieve. Decisions made outside a given municipality, such as what land to develop and what land to preserve, can greatly affect a community’s natural resources, especially the quality and quantity of its drinking water. Land use is a critical issue for all of us who depend on the Highlands for our water supplies.
We believe that the interdependency of our water supplies makes it imperative that the New Jersey Legislature passes the "Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act" (S-1/A-2635). This act will establish a regional planning council to develop a plan for the Highlands that will ensure that our drinking water supplies are protected. The regional plan will also protect other natural resources in the Highlands, and ensure the sustainable economic growth of the region and its municipalities.
Enclosed please find a draft resolution in support of S-1/A-2635 to accomplish regional planning for the Highlands. I hope that your municipal government will consider passing the resolution and forwarding it to the Governor, your legislators and ANJEC.
Thank you for considering passage of this resolution. ANJEC is happy to answer any questions you might have regarding the Law or the resolution.
SAMPLE HIGHLANDS RESOLUTION
WHEREAS, the Highlands region, encompassing lands in northwest New Jersey is recognized as a landscape of national significance because of its critical natural resources, scenic beauty, substantial recreational opportunities and numerous cultural and historic sites; and
WHEREAS, important ground and surface water sources within this region supply drinking water to more than four million people in New Jersey; and Highlands reservoirs are especially important because of their ability to store water for use during critical times, such as prolonged drought; and
WHEREAS, ___________ receives drinking water originating in the Highlands and depends on the Highlands to maintain a plentiful and clean supply of water;
WHEREAS, the New Jersey Highlands lost an average of 5,000 acres of forest and farmland to development each year between 1995 and 2000 and that continuation of that trend would have significant adverse impact on both water quantity and quality; and
WHEREAS, the NJ Highlands region is recognized as a “Special Resource Area” in the 2001 State Development and Redevelopment Plan and nearly 70% of the Highlands is mapped as Environmentally Sensitive, yet less than 23% of the region is permanently protected; and
WHEREAS, Federal, state, local and private studies have identified 350,000-390,000 acres of critical lands that need increased protection to safeguard the water and other natural resources of the Highlands, and that acquisition alone will be unable to protect this land; and
WHEREAS, local planning, in which 90 municipalities and 7 counties each individually set goals and priorities for the portions of the Highlands within their boundaries, is unlikely to offer the comprehensive approach necessary to protect the natural resources, and in particular the water resources, of the Highlands;
Now, therefore, be it resolved that ________________ supports the "Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act" (S-1/A-2635) that calls for:
Creation of a Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council, which will consist of 8 elected officials from Highlands' counties (5 municipal, 3 county, at least one from each Highlands county), and 7 residents of the State.
Definition of a preservation area of 350,000 to 390,000 acres of critical lands necessary to safeguard the water and other natural resources of the Highlands;
Enhanced regulatory authority for the NJ Department of Environmental Protection to protect water quality and natural resources
Preparation of a master plan by the Regional Council with meaningful input and participation from Highlands’ municipalities. The master plan will identify the critical watershed and open space lands that should be preserved or protected, and appropriate locations for future growth for the entire Highlands region.
When you pass this resolution, please send a copy to everyone below:
P.O. Box 001
Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0001
Sandy Batty, Executive Director
Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions
P.O. Box 157
Mendham, New Jersey 07945
Or Fax 973-539-7547