As Pipeline Expands, Questions Raised Over Who Protects NJ Water

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Highlands Region in the northwest corner of New Jersey provides water for more than 5 million households in the state. A utility company, Tennessee Gas Pipeline, is expanding the natural gas line that runs through the environmentally protected area. The fight over the project has become the centerpiece of why environmentalists complain about Governor Chris Christie's tenure.

In 2004, the state passed the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act to preserve open space and protect the supply of drinking water. It also established a 15-member Highlands Council to implement the act. Since Gov. Chris Christie took office, the Council has undergone a make-over, much to the chagrin of environmentalists.

"[Gov. Christie] has succeeded in the past year to set three fundamentally anti-Highlands politicians to the council," said Eliott Ruga with the environmental group, the Highlands Coalition. "We feel that has tremendously impeded the work that they were charged to do."

But others, like Kurt Alstede, argue Christie has added balance to the council, making room for the diverse range of voices on how the Highlands should be protected.

"We tended to have a council prior to this make-up that we have now that went a little beyond the letter of the law, if you will, like judicial activism," said Kurt Alstede, who's been a member of the Highlands Council since it was established.

Tbe pipeline runs under the Monksville Reservoir, and the cut out can continue to be seen on the other side of the water. Caitlyn Kim/WNYC


Comments [4]

Diane Wexler from Vernon, NJ

Yes the water is important to survival, but so are the thousands and thousands of trees forever gone. The cumulative affects of deforestation, which is what has been happening, contribute greatly to global warming, change in weather patterns, storm strengths, and if none of you have noticed, from that Super Storm Sandy when you drive on what was once densely wooded lands all you see now is huge trees fallen over as if they have given up, as if the small amount of climate change has already been too much for them to survive here anymore. This pipeline for the sake of energy is the wrong path. It is short term at best and then you still have the problem of supplying energy, aside from the fact that the only increase in economy will be in the pockets of the gas companies. Renewable energy is the only way to further our energy won't run out and it is kind to the place we all call home--the planet.

May. 20 2013 07:59 AM
Elliott Ruga from Boonton, NJ

I don't disagree with the unfairness of the shortage of groundwater in West Milford while there is a plentiful supply of surface water owned by the City of Newark. But this situation has nothing to do with the Highlands Act, which was enacted in 2004. The Newark water supply property was purchased by the city before the turn of the last century and has been supplying Newark and elsewhere since 1892. Access to the Newark "watershed" property is controlled, but by no means off limits. Easily purchased and inexpensive permits are available for hiking, hunting, fishing, boating and more. The Highlands Act protects areas that are the sources of publicly owned water for a large segment of NJ by stopping what was the uncontrolled conversion of forested and farmland into residential and commercial uses. I am not aware of a single fence that was erected, preventing recreational access, as a result of the Highlands Act. Conversely,the State has committed a proportionately larger share of it's open space funding into the Highlands than anywhere else in the State, creating new and more recreational opportunities and compensating willing sellers very favorably.

May. 17 2013 07:19 PM

I became aware of the pipeline after a facebook viral link. The idea of a pipeline is dated and seems like a wrong NEW solution.

I do believe in Obama's push for solar,wireless/pipeless sources is a long term/ sustainable solution. Sometimes the solution is not the easiest and most familiar. We should be pushing harder like the tech industry is. Though it seems like software is making more leaps than hardware.

May. 17 2013 09:33 AM
Linda from West Milford

"The Highlands Region in the northwest corner of New Jersey provides water for more than 5 million households in the state."

What they fail to state is that most of that water goes to places outside the region. In fact, many places in the region do not have reliable water. And, the municipalities that own the land (Newark) don't pay taxes commensurate with the land. The Highlands preservation act devalued the land, and the tax rate doesn't take into consideration the profit that Newark gets by selling the water. There are huge swaths of land (over 6000 acres in West Milford alone) that are dedicated to providing water for other people. This land could be recreation land, or used for water for regional citizens, but it is untouchable. I, myself, frequently run out of water in my home, although we are super conservative with - we have catchment systems to water the garden, never water the lawn, take military showers. My well is 1500 feet deep. What I wouldn't give for some of that water.

May. 17 2013 09:31 AM

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