New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) classifies waterways in New Jersey according to several characteristics. Streams and rivers that provide quality drinking water and/or sustain ecological resources are designated as Category One waterways. These streams are those that exhibit suitable habitat for threatened and endangered species and provide exceptional recreational and fishing opportunities. These waterways are more highly regulated to preserve water quality to protect ecosystems that provide important wildlife habitats. The classification system began in 1985, when the state began using Category 1 designations for waterways within parks and state wildlife management areas as well as trout production rivers. In 2003, the state broadened the scope of the designation to include waterways providing both exceptional ecological and exceptional water-supply significance. There are approximately 6,800 miles of waterways currently designated as Category 1, which are protected for their exceptional ecological, water supply, recreation, and/or fisheries values.
For more information on the DEP’s waterway-protection classification system, click here.
NJDEP has filed proposed classification changes as amendments to its Surface Water Quality Standards Rules, which will designate an additional 749 miles of rivers and streams as Category One waterways. This is the first time in more than a decade that the state has designated waterways to this high level of protection. The stream classification upgrades are based on scientific criteria as well as verification of suitable habitat for threatened and endangered species, and fish species, such as trout, that depend on high quality water.
The change in classification will bring additional regulation to the areas surrounding these waterways.
Any wastewater or other regulated discharges impacting these waterways will need to meet stringent water quality standards. These areas will also be afforded 300-foot development buffers under the Flood Hazard Area Control Act, better protecting water quality as well as lives and property.
Publication of the proposed classification upgrades in the New Jersey Register starts a 60-day public comment process. The DEP will hold a public hearing on April 8 and comments on the proposal can be submitted electronically or by mail no later than May 3. The rule proposal can be found here.