The Great Swamp Watershed Management Committee (the Committee) recently completed its ninth year of operations. Operating through an inter-local governmental agreement, the Counties of Morris and Somerset together with Bernards Township, Bernardsville Borough, Chatham Township, Harding Township, Morris Township, Long Hill Township, Madison Borough, the Town of Morristown, Mendham Borough and Mendham Township have worked together to protect and improve the water quality of the feeder tributaries of the Great Swamp National Refuge.
The purpose of this report is to provide Governing Bodies, Planning Boards, Environmental Commissions and other interested citizens with an overview of The Committee’s activities during the last 12 months. The Committee holds regular public meetings and publishes the results of its work on its website, tentowns.org. Meeting dates and times are posted on the website and the public is cordially invited to attend.
Funding for the day-to-day operations of the Committee comes from annual contributions of the participating municipalities and counties. Grants from private foundations, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in excess of $900,000 over the last nine years fund the important scientific work required to protect and improve water quality of the Great Swamp tributaries.
The success of the Ten Towns Great Swamp Watershed Management Committee has led directly to the formation of its sister agency, the Rockaway River Cabinet and over the last few months, the Raritan-Highlands Compact. Morris Tomorrow provided the stimulus for local cooperation and recognizes the importance of protecting and improving water quality.
2003-2004 ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND HIGHLIGHTS
Water Quality Science
- As part of developing a scientifically valid database on the Great Swamp water quality, the Committee has gathered six years of water quality data for both base and storm flow samples. Utilizing volunteers from the Great Swamp Watershed Association Stream Teams, samples are collected at regular intervals and sent to certified laboratories for analyses. The impact of drought, storm events, construction and seasonal variations have been and continue to be a source of invaluable information from this ongoing program known as the Water Quality Monitoring Program. The data is displayed on the Ten Towns website. The program is expected to continue through 2005 and beyond assuming funding continues.
- A second ongoing program is the Macroinvertebrate study generally conducted each June by Dr. Lee Pollock of Drew University. The study provides a definitive look at the health of the Great Swamp tributaries by scientifically measuring the insect life present in the waters. By comparing the presence, absence and quantities of life forms Dr. Pollock has added to the body of scientific knowledge of the water quality of the Great Swamp. The impact of the 2001 drought can be dramatically seen though a comparison of each year’s report. Like the water quality monitoring program, Dr. Pollock’s work can viewed on the Ten Towns website.
- Early in 2004, Princeton Hydro, LLC completed a sub-watershed assessment of the Primrose Brook. Funded by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, this assessment if the fourth of five studies done on the Great Swamp tributaries. The study identifies various non point source pollution sites and makes recommendations for best management practices to help alleviate those problems. Princeton Hydro’s work on this project includes interactive links with maps and photographs of the entire Primrose Brook watershed and is believed to be the first such study with these graphic capabilities. Ultimately, the study will be used to obtain funding for structural improvements recommended and for the public education of private property owners.
- The Committee substantially completed the construction of a best management practice bio-retention basin at St. Joseph’s Shrine in Long Hill Township. Bid in accordance with the provisions of the Local Public Contracts Law, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection along with in kind contributions funded the project. Prior to the basin’s construction storm water from a large parking lot flowed in sheets into a wooded area close to the Great Swamp Refuge. The new basin captures the storm flow and allows the parking lot pollutants to settle into the basin while the water percolates into the ground helping to recharge the aquifer. Special wetlands plantings help to diminish the hydrocarbon pollution.
- During the last year the Committee obtain final approvals for the construction of another best management practice, bio-retention basin for Christ the King Church, Bayne Park in Harding Township. The design is completed and final permits will enable the project to be bid in the late summer of 2004. Like the project at St. Joseph’s Shrine, State and Federal funding will pay for the construction.
- Loantaka Brook Concept Plan – Using the scientific database from both the water quality monitoring program and the macro-invertebrate studies, The Committee has determined that the Loantaka Brook has more severe water quality problems than any of the five feeder streams of the Great Swamp. The headwaters of the Loantaka Brook capture the storm water runoff from a highly urbanized and developed area in Morristown and Morris Township near Route 124. Ten Town officials have met with representatives of the Army Corp of Engineers, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Delaware River Basin Commission and Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen to present a concept plan to restore the headwaters of the Loantaka Brook. Funding for the preparation of an engineering master clean up plan may be available in the next year.
- The State of New Jersey adopted the Federal Phase II Storm Water Management Rules earlier this year. The Ten Towns Committee has been at the forefront of storm water management and therefore, many member municipalities found the new regulations complementary to model ordinances recommended over the years. Nevertheless, members of the Ten Towns Committee heard experts talk about the specific requirements of the new regulations at several regular meetings. The Committee will be assisting member municipalities with issues such as public education through a subcommittee formed to work on storm water related issues. The Committee welcomes the opportunity to assist member municipalities with compliance with these important new regulations.
- With almost nine years of operations completed, the Executive Committee believed that it was an appropriate time to thoroughly examine the mission, goals and objectives of the Ten Towns Committee. Using funding provided by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and the outstanding facilities at the Lord Sterling Environmental Center, the Full Committee attended a full day devoted to strategic planning lead by a professional facilitator. As a result of this important meeting, several new sub committees have been recommended that will assist both member municipalities and the full committee to better meet the ever changing environmental and regulatory standards. The sessions also provided members with a renewed interest in the work of the Ten Towns. A complete summary of the day’s results can be found on the Ten Towns website.