Defending Community Monitoring of Waterways in Court

March 10th, 2021

On Monday, The Watershed Institute along with Raritan Headwaters Association and the Highlands Coalition asked the courts to uphold last year’s upgrade to 600 miles of waterways in the state of New Jersey.

Last April, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) upgraded various waterways throughout the state including Jacobs Creek in Hopewell Township and Rocky Brook in Montgomery Township. This upgrade, called Category One (C-1), protects the waterways from water pollution and increases the buffers, or riparian zones, near these streams.

Unfortunately, Hunterdon County, Raritan Township, and the Raritan Township Municipal Utilities Authority have challenged these upgrades and have sued NJDEP. As part of their lawsuit, these entities challenged the Department’s use of data collected by statewide volunteers to supplement their own data collection for regulatory purposes.

The Watershed Institute has engaged in volunteer water quality monitoring since 1992. Our data is submitted to NJDEP for its regulatory use. NJDEP has contracted Erin Stretz, the Watershed’s Assistant Director of Science and Stewardship, to run its Watershed Watch Network, which works with various community water monitoring programs to train, support, and strengthen them.

If the C-1 challengers are successful in their lawsuit, community water quality monitoring could be severely impacted. The Watershed Institute will defend this type of community monitoring in court and strongly believes in engaging the public in environmental protection efforts.

Mike Pisauro, the Watershed’s Policy Director, describes the upgraded protections in April 2020 along the shores of Jacobs Creek in Hopewell Township in this video from last year. Kristin McLaughlin, former mayor of Hopewell Township, also shares her views in this video. 

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