On May 21st Senator Jon Corzine introduced the companion legislation to Congressman Scott Garrett's bill into the Senate. The Senator's press release appears below.
US Senator Jon S. Corzine (D-N.J.) today introduced legislation that would add 24 miles of the Musconetcong River to the National Wild and Scenic River System. The Musconetcong Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, sponsored in the House by US Representative Scott Garrett (R-5th Dist.), would add the river to a national system of protected waterways, thereby making it eligible for millions of dollars in federal preservation support. "The Musconetcong is a natural treasure, and one that deserves our every effort to preserve. This legislation is a necessary step to ensure that future generations can experience what New Jerseyans have always enjoyed: access to a pristine, scenic waterway. Many of the municipalities along the river lack the financial resources to adequately protect it for our children," said Corzine. "That is why this Act is so important." "This bill will preserve, restore and enhance the outstanding natural resources in the river corridor, including the rare species, floodplains, headwaters and wetlands," said Garrett. "This designation protects the existing tributaries, and allows for development that is not damaging to the resources of the river, or the free-flow of the river's current." "We must do all we can to see that the natural beauty of the Musconetcong River is preserved for future generations of New Jerseyans to enjoy," said Senator Frank Lautenberg, an original co-sponsor of the bill. The House version of the bill has bipartisan support from Representatives Robert Andrews (D-1st Dist.), James Saxton (R-3rd Dist.), Frank Pallone (D-6th Dist.), Michael Ferguson (R-7th Dist.), Donald Payne (D-10th Dist.), Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.), and Robert Menendez (D-13th Dist.). Corzine and Garrett's legislation directs the Secretary of the Interior to manage the river in accordance with the Musconetcong River Management Plan, a strategy created by state and local governments and non-profit organizations to protect the river and balance competing demands on its resources. The plan outlines several objectives for protecting the river, which include maintaining and improving water quality, guarding fisheries, protecting scenic vistas, and enhancing public access to the river for recreation. Eighteen municipalities and three counties along the river have passed resolutions supporting the Musconetcong River Management Plan. The bill also directs the Secretary of the Interior to cooperate with several organizations and agencies, including the Musconetcong River Management Committee, the Musconetcong Watershed Association, the Heritage Conservancy, the National Park Service, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The bill now heads to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, of which Corzine is a member. The Musconetcong River is a 43-mile river that runs westward from Lake Musconetcong to the Delaware River at Reiglesville. It provides many ecological, recreational and scenic benefits to the northwestern portion of New Jersey. It is also home to a number of archeological sites and other historic areas, including a site in Warren County where scientists have discovered stone knives and other weapons dating back ten thousand years or more. In addition, it feeds aquifers that provide many residents in Hunterdon and Warren counties with quality drinking water.
Wild and Scenic Bill reintroduced March 15th 2005!
The Musconetcong Watershed Association has asked Congressman Scott Garrett to reintroduce the bill to amend the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to include the Musconetcong River into the current session of Congress. Reintroduction is necessary as all pending bills expired when Congress adjourned in December. It is hoped that the bill will be reviewed by the House Committee on Resources in 2005, at which time members of the Musconetcong Advisory Committee will likely be called upon to testify in Washington. As progress continues in the House, the Musconetcong Advisory Committee will begin to seek support to move the bill through the Senate.
An important milestone was passed recently when the National Park Service released the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Final Study Report and River Management Plan to watershed municipalities and Sussex, Morris Hunterdon and Warren counties. These documents, which took several years to produce, were developed as part of a public planning process and finalized in 2004. The Study Report and Management Plan were prepared by the Musconetcong Advisory Committee which is comprised of municipal representatives, the Musconetcong Watershed Association, the National Park Service and Heritage Conservancy staff.
Wild & Scenic Bill Introduced
Congressman Scott Garrett held a press conference at Hackettstown Park on March 19th to announce his introduction of legislation that would designate the Musconetcong to the Wild and Scenic River System. Over 50 local county and state officials, members of the media and MWA supporters braved bone-chilling snowy morning to receive the news that MWA' decade long effort to secure the designation had reached an important milestone. The legislation was cosponsored by Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen and Congressman Michael Ferguson.
MWA has invested countless volunteer and staff hours working with our many partners to secure a wild and scenic designation for the Musconetcong. When the Musconetcong is designated the MWA, local municipalities and other nonprofit organizations will be eligible for funding to implement the River Management Plan. Moreover the National Park Service will be required to review projects in or along the river that need federal permits or use federal funding.
MWA thanks our congressional delegation for supporting this effort!
MMWA Executive Director John Brunner and MWA Trustees Bill Leavens and Susan Dickey traveled to Washington DC in March to meet with New Jersey congressional staff to discuss the Musconetcong River Wild and Scenic River study. Brunner and Leavens also met with representatives from the National Park Service and American Rivers to learn about how other river advocacy groups secured Wild and Scenic designations.
During July Brunner worked with American Rivers and the American Rivers and the National Park Service to craft legislation that will be used to designate portions of the Musconetcong River as a component of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
The final draft "Musconetcong River Management Plan" was completed by Sharon Yates of the Heritage Conservancy, with editorial assistance from Brunner and Paul Kenney of the National Park Service. Copies will be mailed to each municipality and will also be available at local libraries.
The members of the Musconetcong Advisory Committee, Musconetcong Watershed Association, National Park Service and Heritage Conservancy are working hard to complete the most important phase of our quest to secure a place for the river in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. We are seeking the support of the twenty-five municipalities and four counties within our watershed for the river management plan and wild and scenic designation.
It is especially important to gain resolutions of support from the fourteen municipalities that are along the sections of the river deemed eligible for wild and scenic designation. The Musconetcong River study process was conducted under the "Partnership Program", a relatively new part of the Wild and Scenic Rivers System that applies to rivers that flow primarily through private land. The Maurice River, White Clay Creek and Lower Delaware River are all Partnership Rivers. For the Musconetcong this management system means the National Park Service will not own, manage or police the river and surrounding riparian areas, such as it does within the boundaries of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.
The Musconetcong Wild and Scenic partners have produced an excellent River Management Plan (RMP) that prescribes actions to protect the Musconetcong River ands its important historic, scenic and recreational features. Of course the RMP becomes another dust collector if it is not put into action. The Plan calls for a River Management Committee to be formed to guide implementation of the plan's action items. The recommended actions are aimed at state agencies, municipal and county governments, nonprofit groups, and landowners.
The River Management Plan is voluntary. It does not come with a "stick" but there will be "carrots" in the form of funding from the National Park Service. The Musconetcong Watershed Association will continue providing leadership on tackling the many river protection and restoration projects. After all, many elements of the River Management Plan were included in MWA's 5-year Strategic Plan. Many elements from the ill-fated NJDEP Musconetcong Watershed Management study were also included the River Management Plan. NJDEP summarily abandoned that effort in 2000 to expand (dilute?) the watershed management study to include all the watersheds in northwestern New Jersey.
One thing we have going for us is the overwhelming support and concern expressed by hundreds of individuals and organizations for the future of the Musconetcong River and its tributaries. People really love this river and its valley. The Plan concentrates on the immediate river corridor, but we have not ignored the tributary streams nor has a watershed approach been abandoned. MWA will continue to be part of the Upper Delaware Watershed Management process once it gets back on track.
Perhaps the single greatest benefit of the Wild and Scenic effort is that it has brought together people from all over the Musconetcong watershed to identify problems and solutions and the many wonderful natural and cultural features found throughout the river valley. It invites people to look beyond their own neighborhood to see the whole river and its watershed.
The Musconetcong River study is unique among all other W&S efforts that have come before it because the Musconetcong River municipalities passed resolutions inviting the National Park Service to conduct the study. Historically, these studies have been established through federal legislation.
Ours has been a truly grassroots effort. Now we are visiting every town meeting whenever the support resolution comes up for a vote.
As of this writing the following municipalities have voted to adopt resolutions endorsing the Musconetcong Wild and Scenic Rivers Management Plan and supporting designation of portions of the Musconetcong River to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers system. All the votes were unanimous. There are 14 towns that fall within sections of the river deemed eligible for wild and scenic designation. We are also seeking letters of support from county freeholders and the 11 other municipalities that are within the watershed but not within the eligible river segments.
In more or less chronological order of resolution adoption:
Town of Hackettstown
Mt. Olive Township
Borough of Bloomsbury
Borough of Hampton
Washington Township (Warren County)
John P. Brunner