Pilot Project To Protect NJ Watershed

Brick Township, NJ, 8/19/02 — The Brick Township Municipal Utilities Authority and the Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced today that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will fund a pilot program to protect and improve the water quality of the Metedeconk River Watershed, which provides drinking water to approximately 100,000 people in Ocean County, NJ and supplies the Authority with 74 percent of its raw water supply. The watershed runs through seven towns in Ocean and Monmouth Counties, including Lakewood, Jackson, Howell and Point Pleasant.

With funding from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Water, TPL and its partners on the project – the U.S. Forest Service and the University of Massachusetts – will work with a committee of local government representatives, water suppliers, local conservation groups, Township of Brick and Brick Township Municipal Utilities Authority in an innovative approach to helping communities move from planning and analysis to on-the-ground implementation of drinking water protection strategies.

The EPA funded the projects to demonstrate the use of land conservation and forest management practices as innovative and sustainable approaches to drinking water protection. “We expect that the collaborative effort at the local level will result in some unique approaches that can be transferred to other communities around the country,” said Debra Gutenson, Project Officer with the EPA.

“The communities in the Metedeconk watershed have experienced tremendous development pressure in recent years and we’re looking forward to helping them find ways to permanently protect the quality of their drinking water during this time of change,” said Leigh Rae, TPL’s New Jersey Field Office Director.

“The Brick Township Municipal Utilities Authority is looking to the future with this innovative program,” said Kevin Donald, Executive Director. “We are thrilled to be part of this pilot program and look forward to working with the EPA and the Trust for Public Land in identifying solutions that reflect both water quality and growth management issues.”

In the initial phase, Trust for Public Land and the University of Massachusetts will work with local professionals to develop computer-generated models to analyze key watershed issues. The resulting report will identify threats, concerns, and opportunities in the watershed, and set the stage for a “stewardship exchange” visit from professionals with expertise in the areas of greatest concern to the Metedeconk.

The stewardship exchange team, a volunteer group of professional recruited from around the country, will bring a variety of backgrounds, perspectives and experiences to bear on local watershed issues as they participate in meetings and work sessions with community members and local leaders. The culmination of the team’s visit will be a presentation of their observations and findings, and a set of recommendations for next steps and actions.

After the stewardship exchange, the Trust for Public Land, the Forest Service, and other partners will continue to provide technical assistance to support local efforts to implement the land conservation and forest management protection strategies recommended by the team.

The communities selected for this innovative initiative will be featured and promoted nationally by EPA and TPL in case studies that model best management practices for drinking water protection.