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Watershed Develops Model Stormwater Ordinance for NJ Towns

July 28th, 2020

The Watershed Institute has developed a model ordinance to help municipalities combat the perils of polluted stormwater runoff and comply with new requirements from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). The new model ordinance protects people and waterways and is stronger than the baseline model released by the state earlier this year.

Polluted stormwater runoff is a major problem for New Jersey. Pesticides, fertilizers, oil, pet waste, and other chemicals are washed into lakes, streams, and rivers, degrading ecosystems and contributing to harmful algal blooms. Flooding has become an urgent problem as the state experiences an increase in the intensity of storms due to climate change and the continued use of impervious surfaces as a result of development. With many communities in our area experiencing significant problems with flooding and polluted waterways, it is critical that towns enact comprehensive stormwater management protections.

NJDEP adopted amendments to the state’s stormwater management rules earlier this year that requires the use of green infrastructure to address these problems. Rain gardens, bio-retention basins, vegetated swales, and other green infrastructure mimic nature. These natural solutions capture water and allow it to infiltrate into the ground, cleaning the polluted stormwater by filtering it through plants and soil.

The amendments are the result of a multi-year stakeholder process lead by NJDEP that included experts from The Watershed Institute. Each municipality is required to update its stormwater management ordinance to make it consistent with the new state rule by March 2021. The new rule mandates the use of green infrastructure to treat stormwater runoff for new major developments, which are defined by the state as those that disturb more than one acre of land and/or add a quarter acre of impervious surface. Towns can choose to add green infrastructure stormwater management requirements for redevelopment projects and smaller developments as well.

In a statement, NJDEP Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe said, “Nature is one of our best allies in reducing flooding risks and managing stormwater runoff that pollutes waterways. These amendments, resulting from extensive discussions with stakeholders and experts, mark a milestone in how New Jersey manages and regulates stormwater. The DEP is working with stakeholders on additional stormwater management rule changes to even further advance Governor Murphy’s commitment to protecting the environment and making the state more resilient to the impacts of climate change.”

For more information, or to get involved in advocating for a strong stormwater ordinance in your town, please contact the Watershed’s Policy Director Mike Pisauro or Municipal Policy Specialist Sophie Glovier.

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