NEW JERSEY – All New Jersey municipalities and the Department of Environmental Protection on March 2 will begin implementing new green infrastructure rules to manage stormwater runoff generated by developments across the state, DEP Acting Commissioner Shawn LaTourette said.
“With decades of experience managing stormwater with both manufactured devices like expensive underground concrete vaults and less costly nature-based solutions like rain gardens, New Jersey has learned that engineering with nature provides better and more cost-effective outcomes for our water quality while beautifying our communities,” Acting Commissioner LaTourette said. “These new Stormwater Management Rules will help make New Jersey’s watersheds cleaner by improving water quality, while also increasing our communities’ resilience to the increased storms and chronic flooding that are worsening across New Jersey due to climate change.”
Green Infrastructure Is Now the Predominate Method for Managing Stormwater Throughout New Jersey, Reducing Pollution and Flooding from Runoff
Stormwater runoff is a major source of pollution throughout New Jersey’s waterways. Every day, runoff carries automotive fluids, fertilizers, pesticides, household and industrial chemicals into our waterways. If stormwater runoff is not properly controlled, it degrades ecosystems and impairs lakes, streams, and rivers.
Poorly controlled stormwater runoff can lead to the development of harmful algal blooms in our lakes and reservoirs, and it can exacerbate dangerous flooding conditions. With increases in rainfall and extreme weather events due to climate change, the imperative to better control our stormwater runoff is even greater, as it creates added risk for harm to people and property.
Green infrastructure is a well-established management approach that encourages stormwater infiltration into the ground, rather than discharging it to pipes and culverts that ultimately spill into waterways. This approach allows vegetation and soil to naturally filter out pollutants and reduce sediment impacts on waterways. Green infrastructure includes a broad range of technologies, including rain gardens, bioretention basins, vegetated swales, pervious paving and green roofs.
By using green infrastructure, project developers and local governments can properly control stormwater runoff while creating vegetated areas that enhance open space, filter air pollutants, absorb carbon dioxide, and help cool and beautify our communities.
As of March 2, 2021, green infrastructure will be the preferred and predominate method for managing stormwater as required by the state’s Stormwater Management Rule (N.J.A.C. 7:8), which is used by DEP and jurisdictions throughout New Jersey in evaluating and permitting development projects, as well as ensuring local government compliance with stormwater permits administered by DEP under the federal Clean Water Act.
For many years prior to this mandatory green infrastructure rule, the DEP has supported and advanced green infrastructure practices by providing businesses, local governments, and private property owners with technical assistance and providing financial assistance to help reduce stormwater impacts in urban areas, including those with combined sewer overflows (CSOs).
More information is available at: www.nj.gov/dep/gi.
Green Infrastructure Supports DEP’s Holistic Approach to Watershed Management
In furtherance of the Murphy Administration’s commitment to protecting and enhancing New Jersey’s water resources, Acting DEP Commissioner LaTourette has reorganized and integrated key DEP functions and programs to support holistic management of New Jersey’s watersheds and facilitate long-term improvements of impaired waters. DEP is in the process of integrating components of its Water Resource Management Program with DEP’s former Land Use Management Program to create a Watershed and Land Management Program.
The Watershed and Land Management Program will review development applications requiring permits under New Jersey’s environmental land use laws, informed by environmental conditions in the host watershed. This holistic approach will better enable DEP to address the increasingly complex challenges of protecting New Jersey’s rivers, streams, lakes, coastal waters and wetlands, particularly in the face of growing climate change threats.
This realignment will also allow DEP to address water quality issues on a regional basis and allows DEP experts to work more effectively on planning, permitting, mitigation and restoration efforts by focusing on watershed-wide approaches that will provide important benefits to individual communities. Key goals include improving project review capabilities, expediting informed agency decision-making, strengthening connections with stakeholders and communities, expanding public understanding of the impacts of local land use decisions on water quality, and increasing the reach of grant availability and watershed restoration projects.
“As the most densely populated state, New Jersey must remain proactive and open to better ways to improve water quality – and a key part of this is more aggressively managing stormwater, which is at the heart of so many water quality and public safety issues,” said Vincent Mazzei, Assistant Commissioner for Watershed and Land Use Management. “By integrating our land use and water quality efforts under one umbrella, we are positioning the DEP to become much more proactive in protecting our environment for future generations, especially as we face the realities of the many threats from climate change.”
More Information About the Green Infrastructure Rule
The DEP formally adopted the green stormwater infrastructure requirements as amendments to its Stormwater Management Rules on March 2, 2020. The DEP provided a year for the requirements to take effect to help in the transition of management of reviews for projects at the state and local levels and to provide flexibility to major developments in the design and planning process. This also provided time for municipalities to develop required local ordinances and for training of design engineers and municipal review staff.
The amendments require applicants for all regulated residential and non-residential projects to use green infrastructure, rather than more traditional engineered structures, to reduce stormwater discharge and runoff and to achieve water quality goals.
Any complete application for a residential development received by a municipality before March 2, 2021 will be reviewed under the existing Stormwater Management rules. Any application received after this date or determined to be incomplete as of that date will be reviewed under the newly effective rules.
Non-residential applications will be reviewed for compliance with the local stormwater control ordinance, which is required under a municipality’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit. The MS4 permit requires that this ordinance be at least as stringent as the DEP’s Stormwater Management rules. The DEP required municipalities to revise their stormwater ordinances and make them effective no later than March 3, 2021.
Any complete application for a non-residential development received by a municipality before the effective date of their new ordinance will be reviewed under the existing ordinance. Any project applications received after this date or determined to be incomplete will be reviewed under the amended ordinance.
Similarly, complete applications for any public or private development seeking authorization from DEP under its Flood Hazard Area, Freshwater Wetlands, and Coastal Zone Management programs, which are received prior to March 2, 2021, will be reviewed by DEP under the existing Stormwater Management rules. Any application received after this date or determined to be incomplete as of that date will be reviewed under the newly effective rules.
Businesses that produce shrubs, plants and landscaping materials, as well as designers and manufacturers of green infrastructure technologies, are among those that will benefit from the rules. In the longer term, developers will find that many green technologies are often less expensive to maintain and are more cost-effective than traditional technologies.