Tag: Raritan Bay

October update from the LRWP President

Dear Friends of the Lower Raritan Watershed –

Five years ago Superstorm Sandy came ashore, causing widespread destruction throughout our region. Now our thoughts go out to Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico as they recover from this season’s ruinous Hurricanes. How would our Lower Raritan Watershed fare if drenched with similar rainfall to that which Hurricane Harvey dumped on Houston? Every one of our watershed communities would be devastated. And if a Hurricane like Maria hit Raritan Bay the storm surge would level Sayreville, South River, South Amboy and much of Perth Amboy. Although rainfall amounts akin to Harvey are extremely unlikely in our region, global climate change is increasing the likelihood and frequency of powerful hurricanes and other storms. The northeast has already experienced a 71% increase between 1958 and 2012 in the amount of rain that falls in very intense storms.

At LRWP we think about and work on climate adaptation in relation to water quality improvements, community health and storm preparedness. Our approach is to identify, prioritize and implement nature-based solutions (called Green Infrastructure) that will make our Lower Raritan Watershed communities resilient to stronger rain storms and rising temperatures. Preparing and adapting proactively will save money while protecting our infrastructure, the environment, and human life – with the added benefits of improved air and water quality, reduced urban heat island impacts and enhanced urban neighborhoods. For this reason we are organizing the November 17 “Green Infrastructure for Resilience” workshop with NOAA. This workshop is designed to help our communities think through their resilience approaches. Registration is now open. We encourage municipalities (Environmental Commissions, Green Teams, Planners, Engineers, Council Members) to attend as teams to develop concept plans to take back to your towns. Continuing education credits are available through the American Planning Association (6 credits) and the Association of State Floodplain Managers (5 credits).

We are very excited to kick off our 3rd (!!) year as a non-profit with the NOAA resilience workshop. We are also rolling out lots of birthday surprises on our websitethroughout October (new resource pages for students, towns, teachers and homeowners) and plenty of other events to get you out in the field!

See you in the watershed,

Heather Fenyk, President
Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership

A Tale of Two Rivers

In May, Alison M. Jones, Executive Director of our international partner organization No Water No Life, gave a talk in Tewksbury Twp. on the upstream-downstream issues of the Raritan Basin. Alison writes: “The audience was surprised – and then concerned – about the issues faced in the Lower Raritan and that some of the problems flowed down from the Upper Raritan.” After hearing Alison speak, one member of the audience was inspired to write an article for The Bernardsville News comparing the upstream-downstream disconnect in the Raritan Basin to the problems that led to Flint, Michigan’s drinking water debacle.

As in Michigan, in New Jersey we also face a state government willing to accept the public health risks of ignoring – and even compromising – necessary drinking water protections. The Christie administration has put new regulations into effect that will loosen the state’s clean water rules, opening up close to 400,000 acres of sensitive lands to development. While maintaining the integrity of upstream lands is clearly important for communities at higher elevations, the new regulations will have especially dire public health impacts on the state’s historically impaired and poorer downstream areas including the Lower Raritan and Raritan Bay. By opening up upstream lands to development, our downstream areas face compromised drinking water supplies, intensification of flooding, and increased water contamination associated with stormwater flows.

Senator Bob Smith, sponsor of Bill SCR66 that would invalidate Christie’s revisions to the Flood Hazard Control Act rules, has successfully pushed his bill through the Assembly and Senate Committees. There is significant support in the Senate for the bill, including from former Governor Tom Kean, the final hurdle is for Senate President Stephen Sweeney to post the bill to a vote in the full Senate today.

It is not news to our Lower Raritan communities that water, and all attendant pollution, runs downhill. The daily work in our downstream areas must address the clean-up of not only legacy industrial contamination but also non-point-source pollutants that are carried from upstream. The LRWP has been part of a statewide campaign to support Smith’s bill and to encourage Sweeney to post this bill for a vote in Senate, but successfully addressing historic and ongoing threats to the health of our downstream areas will require new and ongoing forms of regional cooperation. Clean drinking water and the health of our communities is at stake.