In April 2020, NJDEP finalized the reclassification of 600 miles of rivers and streams to Category 1 or “C1” status – which is the second highest antidegradation classification of a water body under NJDEP’s surface water quality regulations, and which requires that the water be “protected from any measurable change in water quality” because of its “exceptional significance” to ecological values, recreational uses, water supplies, or fisheries resources. This was the first reclassification of state rivers and streams since 2008.
The newly reclassified rivers and streams cut across 67 different municipalities, and multiple counties, including, but not limited to the Cooper River in Camden County; Woodbury Creek and Still Run in Gloucester County; the Salem River in Salem County; the Cohansey and Maurice Rivers in Cumberland County; the South Branch of the Raritan River in Somerset and Hunterdon Counties; Jacobs Creek in Mercer County; Tuckerton and Westecunk Creeks in Ocean County; the Pequest River in Warren County; and the Ramapo River in Bergen County.
This reclassification will affect permitting across multiple industrial and commercial sectors in 2021 – particularly as development and capital projects ramp up as the economy reopens after COVID-19. Existing projects may need to reevaluate the impact of their activities as well. For example, wastewater discharges into C1 waters must meet more stringent water quality standards, which will impact existing and newly proposed discharges to these waterways. In addition, C1 waters and all upstream tributaries also have a 300-foot riparian zone land development buffer requirement on either side of the waterway under the Flood Hazard Area Control Act regulations, that may further restrict any planned land development projects, including infrastructure projects, located near these newly-designated water bodies.