Northwestern New Jersey is the home of the state’s most prized trout streams, including the Musconetcong River. Underground water sources keep these rivers and streams flowing at the perfect temperature for fish. But the water quality is vulnerable to degradation, and showing signs of stress. Protecting rivers, streams, and their underground sources will keep intact a century’s long tradition of fishing, canoeing, and recreation. The Great Waters initiative is a partnership that aims to protect recreational waters from degradation with targeted municipal and state policies, to keep the water clean and our recreational economy thriving.
Why are New Jersey's Great Waters Important?
Two National Wild & Scenic Rivers
Over 60,000 acres of preserved open space with streams and rivers flowing through
More than 120 public water access points
8 swimming areas
119 Historic Districts, most built along rivers
These are the places where we learned to fish, hunt, paddle, and swim. This is where we teach our own children to do the same. It’s a multi-generation way of life at risk, and a valuable part of our tourism and recreation economy.
Hear it from the Locals
Where to go
The Great Waters project, through Trout Unlimited, mapped all public water access points in this region. Even we didn’t know how many public access points and hunting grounds there were. Check out the maps:
Let’s keep it this way. We want recreational water protections that take into account fishing, canoeing, and other recreation when important water quality decisions are made. This doesn’t happen in New Jersey, and doesn’t happen on our National Wild & Scenic Rivers, and rivers that flow through public land. Taxpayer dollars went into preserving those lands, and those investments should be protected from a loss of water quality. Current state policies allow headwater streams, where our rivers are born, to be filled and built upon. This practice needs to end. The cold, clean groundwater that keeps rivers and streams at the right temperature for trout can be polluted. These waters need to stay cold and clean to keep New Jersey’s trout habitat intact as water temperatures rise due to climate change.
You can sign our petition to ask the state to better protect our recreational waters and encourage your municipality to do more to protect water quality. If you’ve got a great story or memory about being on the water, we want to share it.
What We've Accomplished
Better local planning. We are about one quarter of the way through meeting with municipal officials in all 50 towns and 4 counties in the region. Several have adopted the Great Waters Resolution encouraging the state to take action before it is too late.
Protecting Homeowners. Imagine you live next to a large farm field, and you get notice that the land is to become a large development, a stream is going to be filled, and as a result your property might flood. This happened in Franklin Township, Warren County. There is a backdoor in state flooding protections that allows this to happen, and doesn’t allow the neighbors to have a voice in the process. We researched the law and policy, along with the Watershed Institute and Highlands Coalition, and proposed a fix. This fix gives neighbors public notice and allows them to provide information to permitting agencies to protect their property from flooding, and is part of a new policy being issued by the state.
Protecting Clean Groundwaters. We’ve also conducted door-to-door outreach in Hampton Borough, held a public meeting, and supported over 200 residents and recreationists to make public comments concerning a new groundwater discharge sewer plant with a direct connection to the Musconetcong River. We hired experts and an attorney to ensure the state followed the federal Clean Water Act and state legislation. Our advocacy exposed a gap in state polices to protect vital underground water sources that connect to the river, and keep it cold and clean.
Protecting National Treasures. Even after a training we organized with the National Park Service and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, we found that the State was still not taking into account National Wild and Scenic status when it proposed water pollution discharges in Bloomsbury. Against the Clean Water Act and state law, recreational usage, pre-existing water pollution levels, and the important “Category One” protection were also not taken into account. We submitted public comments alerting the state to these problems with the pollution permit.
Protecting Streams and Springs. We hired experts and attorneys when the state was not following federal and state laws meant to protect residents from flooding when natural streams are filled for large-scale developments. Through our attention to these local projects, working with our partners, we elevated this to a top statewide water policy issue.