New N.J. rules aim to improve water and reduce flooding

February 26, 2004|By Maria Newman | Maria Newman,NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

CLOSTER, N.J. -- New Jersey's Gov. James E. McGreevey has announced new regulations on storm-water runoff that environmentalists said would create one of the strongest impediments to urban sprawl anywhere in the nation.

The regulations, which will prohibit most new construction within 300 feet of rivers, streams and reservoirs, are intended to reduce flooding and protect and improve the state's drinking water supply.

"These storm-water rules are the most comprehensive set of water protections in the nation," McGreevey, a Democrat, said. "No other state has required statewide 300-foot buffers around its high-quality waters. They will prove to be a critical tool in our fight against sprawl."

The 300-foot buffer could prevent development of as much as 300,000 acres in the state along an estimated 6,000 miles of rivers and streams. Builders, especially those in the shore areas and the western and southern parts of the state, where open land is still available, had opposed the rules.

McGreevey made the announcement in an upscale community of Closter, in northeastern New Jersey near the Hudson River. Anderson Brook runs through a new housing development that would probably be affected by these rules if it were being proposed today.

Jeff Tittel, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, said the new rules were "landmark regulations" that would benefit future generations, but that took years of discussions because of the opposition from the powerful construction lobby and some politicians.

"We talked and talked and now it's reality and I have to really thank the governor for his leadership on this issue," Tittel said. "These regulations will not only prevent future floods and help mitigate droughts, but more importantly it's going to protect the pristine streams and our drinking water."

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