Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for calling this hearing today to hear testimony on the Musconetcong Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which I introduced earlier this year. I am especially pleased that Beth Styler Barry Executive Director of the Musconetcong Watershed Association is here to testify on behalf of this important bill. She has worked tirelessly on this issue for years and I would like to thank her for all of the hard work she and her colleagues have done to protect the river.
As you know, the Musconetcong Wild and Scenic Rivers Act would designate 24.2 miles of the Musconetcong River in New Jersey as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Stretching a full 43 miles from Lake Musconetcong to the Delaware River, the Musconetcong River is one of the most scenic areas of Northwestern New Jersey. The Musconetcong watershed offers 5,045 acres of parks, some of the finest trout fishing streams in New Jersey, and miles of hiking trails.
Not only is the beauty of the Musconetcong breathtaking and its recreational use remarkable, but the river holds archaeological and historic significance as well. For example, Waterloo Village is a National Historic Site that gained fame when its iron works were used to supply the George Washington's Continental Army with armaments. In addition, the Paleo-Indian archaeological site known as the Plenge site sits in the Musconetcong river valley. The Plenge site dates back 12,000 years and is considered to be one of the most important Paleo-Indian archaeological site excavations in the northeastern United States.
Even with all of these unique aspects, the river's banks are in jeopardy. Its once pristine waters face deteriorating water quality due to increased levels of bacteria, silt and runoff from roadways. This is particularly disturbing since the river feeds aquifers that provide many residents in Hunterdon and Warren counties with quality drinking water. Unfortunately, while the municipalities that lie along the river want to preserve this historic natural resource, they lack the resources to do so, leaving the entire watershed vulnerable to further development and damage. Thirteen of these surrounding municipalities and three New Jersey counties have expressed their support for the designation of the river as part of the National Wild and Scenic River System and are also supportive of the Musconetcong River Management Plan, which was developed in April 2003 with the help of the National Parks Service.
The Musconetcong Wild and Scenic Rivers Act calls on federal, state, and local agencies to work in cooperation with environmental and public interest groups to establish goals and actions to ensure long-term protection of the outstanding values of the Musconetcong River and proper management of land and water resources associated with the river. The bill authorizes funds to facilitate the conservation of the river segment with the purpose of promoting uses and development of the river while maintaining its integrity as a natural resource.
Mr. Chairman, the recreational, ecological, historical and geological benefits of the Musconetcong River are countless, and I urge my Senate colleagues to approve the Musconetcong Wild and Scenic Rivers Act so that generations of New Jerseyans can continue to enjoy its magnificence for years to come.