Mr. Chairman, and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today on bill S.1096. I am Beth Styler Barry, Executive Director of the Musconetcong Watershed Association. I would like to thank Senators Corzine and Lautenberg for their leadership and crucial support in this effort. I would also ask that my entire written statement be entered into the record.
Passage of the Musconetcong Wild and Scenic Rivers Act by this committee is critical to the future protection of one of New Jersey's great rivers. This unique river is the ONLY river wholly contained in New Jersey's Highlands region and is the largest New Jersey tributary to the Delaware River. Without the support offered by this designation, municipalities along the river lack financial and other resources needed to adequately protect this exceptional natural resource.
Designating the eligible segments of the river will:
In short, designation supports uses that are compatible with the River Management Plan and that preserve the existing character of the Musconetcong River Valley.
Beginning in 1991 this fourteen year long effort to earn designation has included citizens from 26 municipalities in four counties, municipal governments, county and state officials, the National Park Service, the Musconetcong Watershed Association, local industries, Heritage Conservancy, the Highlands Coalition, Trout Unlimited and river front property owners. Several alternatives were studied and Wild and Scenic designation was chosen as the best mechanism to enhance and support protection of the river while maintaining local control. In 1999 the Eligibility and Classification Report was complete.
The study found that certain segments were eligible for inclusion in the Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The River Management Plan created as a part of the Wild and Scenic Study process encourages cooperation between all levels of government, individual landowners and non-governmental organizations and recognizes that local municipalities play a key role in implementing the recommended management actions. The River Management Plan will help maintain existing water quality in the Musconetcong River and its tributaries and improve the water quality where possible.
The Musconetcong is one of New Jersey's great rivers. The Musconetcong River Valley is a primary source of drinking water, provides critical wildlife habitat and abundant recreational opportunities. Passage of this bill will protect an outstanding diversity of farms, historic villages and outstanding natural areas. S.1096 recognizes the exceptional value of the Musconetcong River and the importance of its protection under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. I urge your favorable consideration of this bill.
Thank You. I would be pleased to answer any questions that you may have.