NJBIA filed comments on the NJDEP’s proposed rule to designate 749 miles of stream as category one (C-1), the most protective stream category. If adopted, nearly one half of all streams in the State will have special protections making development or redevelopment near them difficult if not impossible.
The NJBIA was very critical of the manner in which this rule was developed and proposed. Only one stakeholder meeting was held, and it was held only two weeks before the rule was submitted for publication indicating that no meaningful public process was in place. As a result of the rushed process, essential information was not provided to the public during the comment period. The NJDEP did not publish interactive mapping so that the public could accurately determine the location of the stream segments being designated. Much of the supporting documentation also proved to be lacking or not available, putting into question the underlying scientific basis for the stream designations.
NJBIA also objected to the fact that the legally mandated economic, social, jobs, and housing impact statements did not fully recognize the impacts of this rule or sought to minimize these impacts. Without sufficient impact statements the public cannot fully understand how the rule proposal may impact them and the NJDEP cannot weigh the cost and benefits of its proposal.
Designating a stream as a C-1 can have significant impacts on development and redevelopment and on businesses seeking to expand. Streams with C-1 designations, as well as upstream tributaries, some many miles away, would be subject to 300-foot “no development” buffers on either side of the stream. Wastewater plants discharging into those streams, or anywhere upstream, may be prohibited from expanding. While the rule purports to be protective of unique, pristine waterbodies, many of the streams are actually in town centers or developed areas such as in the City of Camden and Vineland.
Due to these procedural failings and the significant impacts the rule could cause, we believe it suffers from constitutional and other legal infirmities. For these reasons the NJBIA urged the NJDEP to withdraw the proposal, engage in a meaningful stakeholder process, re-examine factual and scientific evidence, and re-propose the rule.
Please click here to read our comments.