Protection Proposed for the Toms River

Save Barnegat Bay and six statewide environmental groups have joined to request that Governor Corzine protect the Toms River by giving it “Category One” C-1 status to limit development within 300 feet of the river upstream of the Garden State Parkway.

For Immediate Release

Contact: Ethan Lavine

November 1, 2006

Environment New Jersey Cell: 814-341-2678
Office: 609-394-8155, x 307

Groups File Legal Petition to Protect the Toms River

Seek Category One Upgrade to Guard Against New Development within 300 feet of River, Call on Governor for Action

TOMS RIVER – Advocates for the Toms River announced Wednesday that they have filed a legal petition to win increased clean water protections for the river and its major tributaries.

The level of protection sought – called Category One designation – guards against measurable increases in water pollution and creates a 300-foot buffer zone that limits new development around pristine waterways. These buffers guard against new major development projects, maintaining a vegetated strip that greatly reduces the amount of non-point runoff pollution that enters a waterway.

“Runaway development threatens to destroy the Toms River,” said Ethan Lavine, Environment New Jersey’s Environmental Associate. “This petition lays out the case for protecting the Toms before it’s too late and tells the State to take action now.”

The petition, filed with NJDEP, lays out a science-based rationale for implementing the increased protection. The petition also asks NJDEP to begin the rule-making process necessary to implement the Category One upgrade.

“Category One protection for the Toms River is imperative to help limit the effects of non-point source pollution that occur when development encroaches too close to our waterways,” said Helen Henderson, Project Manager at Save Barnegat Bay. “The excessive amount of development in Ocean County is effecting the water quality of our streams, rivers, and Barnegat Bay.”

Signing the petition are Environment New Jersey, New Jersey Audubon Society, Pinelands Preservation Alliance, Save Barnegat Bay, American Littoral Society, the New Jersey Chapter of Sierra Club, and New Jersey Environmental Federation.

The petition, prepared by Carter Strickland of the Rutgers Environmental Law Clinic, demonstrates the high quality and value of the river, expanding upon the characteristics weighed by NJDEP in its classification of a waterway. Factors considered in the petition include the Toms River’s high water quality, habitat for threatened and endangered species, value for recreation and open space, importance to shellfish beds and trout fishing, and potential for future drinking water supply.

The groups highlighted the important role that the water quality of the Toms River plays in maintaining two of New Jersey’s most precious ecosystems, Barnegat Bay Estuary and the Pinelands Region.

Sections of the Toms River and its tributaries falling within the Pinelands Area already carry strong protections because of the region’s exceptional ecological value. However, development along unprotected upstream stretches threatens to significantly degrade water quality even within the Pinelands Area’s borders.

“Though Pinelands protection through State and Federal legislation was a unique achievement in our nation’s history, not all of the Toms River and its tributaries were included within the Pinelands boundary even though these streams are truly Pine Barrens in character,” said Rich Bizub of Pinelands Preservation Alliance. “Category One protections offer the opportunity to finally correct this inequity after 25 years.”

The petition calls for upgrades along the remaining pristine segments of the Toms and its tributaries. On the main stem, protections would extend from the headwaters in Monmouth County eastward to the Route 528 bridge in Cassville, where Pinelands water protections begin, and then again at the terminus of these protections at the New Jersey Central Railroad tracks at the border of Dover and Manchester townships eastward to the Garden State Parkway. The petition also calls for upgrades to tributaries including Mirey Run, Dove’s Mill Branch, Union Branch, and Wrangle Brook.

“There are already environmentally unfriendly development projects quickly moving forward that by infringing upon the proposed 300 foot buffer would effectively render Category One classification moot in some areas,” said Greg Auriemma, chair of the Sierra Club Ocean County. “Quite simply, the NJDEP has to move faster than the bulldozers do.”

The effort has found support among municipalities that would be impacted by the upgrade. Environmental Commissions in Millstone, Berkeley, and Dover townships have passed resolutions in favor of Category One designation. Mayor Paul C. Brush of Dover Township has submitted a letter to Governor Corzine encouraging him to seek the upgrade.

“I fully support the proposal to obtain Category One classification for the Toms River west of the Garden State Parkway,” said Mayor Brush. “This would assist the Township’s efforts to protect the Toms River corridor from encroaching development.”

The petition comes as part of a larger campaign to win increased Category One protections for pristine South Jersey waterways that impact coastal water quality in New Jersey. On Wednesday, Environment New Jersey submitted over 2,500 comments to Governor Jon Corzine from citizens in support of these strong protections.

“Pollution from development is washing down to the Shore, degrading the quality of this state’s top recreational resource,” said Lavine.

Lavine identified several other pristine South Jersey waterways in need of Category One protections, including Great Egg Harbor River (Atlantic and Gloucester Counties), Salem River (Salem County), Cedar Creek (Ocean County), and Oldmans Creek (Gloucester and Salem Counties).

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