The Great Swamp Watershed Management Committee (the Committee) recently completed its tenth year of service to member communities. 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.
We begin this Annual Report with an excerpt from out going Chairman Len Hamilton’s remarks at the 10th Anniversary Celebration. To read his remarks in entirety, please visit our website noted above.
“The Great Swamp has already been lost once. The region had been thoughtfully developed with vegetable farms and small villages that provided a sustainable lifestyle for residents. Then, in the summer of 1708, a group of British investors negotiated a vaguely worded contract to purchase the land. The Lenape Indians very likely thought that they were selling hunting and fishing rights rather than the land itself – actual ownership of land was a foreign concept.
European settlers began to move in to farm the land and start local businesses. Our familiar villages (Green Village, New Vernon, Basking Ridge, Bernardsville, Meyersville, Stirling and Millington) and the historic roads between them began to appear. In 1763, Jacob High, the teenage son of one of these first farmers built the house in Meyersville where my wife and I live.
But even these simple farming communities asked more from the land than it was able to give. The magnificent mature trees of the Great Swamp were harvested for lumber, pitch and other forest products. Large tracts of land were clear-cut to make way for the fields and pastures that characterized the European style of farming. With each clearing, the loss of evapotranspiration brought the water table closer to the surface and drainage became more and more a problem.
Ironically, poor land use had served as a limiting factor and the Great Swamp retained its semi-rural character with sleepy historic villages while the upland areas surrounding it fell prey to urban development and suburban sprawl. The Great Swamp had not been saved, but it had been spared.”
While the more recent history of the Great Swamp is better known, especially the battle against the proposed airport, Dr. Hamilton’s insights into the early land use issues remind us that the 300 year effort to “spare” the Great Swamp continues. The work continues and the Ten Towns Great Swamp Watershed Management Committee is proud of the role it plays in this important task. We recognize that a coalition of ten municipalities, two counties and a Federal Agency need to put aside parochial issues if there is to be success in achieving common goals. That we have done this for ten years is even more remarkable.
2004-2005 GRANTS AND OTHER FINANCIAL MATTERS
The Committee began last year with the unfortunate news that the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation who had supported Ten Towns for many years would no longer be funding future activities. As a final gesture of support, the Foundation offered a $10,000 challenge grant making the funds available if Ten Towns Committee could raise a similar amount from a new source of funding.
To meet the challenge, The Committee plans to utilize $10,000 of a $250,000 from a Special Federal Appropriation that was included in the 2005-2006 Federal Budget. The money will be used to fund the on going Water Quality Monitoring program that the Committee conducts with the Stream Team Volunteers of the Great Swamp Watershed Association. The intention is to fund the important Water Quality Monitoring program for the next two years at a total cost of approximately $50,000.
The balance of the Special Congressional Appropriation will be earmarked to conduct a comprehensive scientific and engineering study of the headwaters of the Loantaka Brook. The eight years of continuous water quality monitoring has identified the Loantaka as the most impaired of the five streams that feed the Great Swamp. The Committee has prepared a White Paper on the issues surrounding the headwaters of Loantaka Brook that is posted on the Website. In addition, representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers have toured the headwaters with Ten Town members and expressed interest in assisting with long-term engineering solutions necessary to improve the storm water runoff from Route 124.
As with many Federal programs, constantly changing Federal regulations have new requirements creating administrative challenges. Ten Towns has submitted a pre-qualification application along with the completed application for funding but has not yet been notified that all requirements have been met. Formal receipt of the money is expected in Fiscal Year 2005-2006.
Among the highlights of the 10th Anniversary Celebration was an award of $113,000 in a Cooperative Agreement with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The agreement that will include participation of Morris Township envisions significant work along the Loantaka Brook on property owned by Morris Township. Among the project’s objectives are the restoration of approximately 600 feet of impacted, eroded and unstable stream channel using bio-restoration techniques; removal of approximately 6,000 square feet of impervious cover; recreation of approximately 9,000 square feet of riparian vegetative buffer and other improvements to the stream environment. Morris Township will be contributing in-kind services to achieve the program objectives. The Ten Towns Committee is serving as Project Manger for the program.
On the State level, the Committee’s application for DEP 319(h) funding was not approved due to decreasing availability of State money. Regulators at DEP ranked our project highly but due to limited funding could not approve it given the budget constraints.
As reported last year, the Shrine of St. Joseph in Long Hill worked with the Ten Towns Committee to install a demonstration bio-retention basin. Work on the project was completed during the last year with funding coming from the Department of Environmental Protection. The project directs storm water from a large parking area through the bio-retention basin where much of the contaminants settle out before being discharged. Pictures of the basin are available on the Ten Towns website.
A second bio-retention basin adjacent to Christ the King Church/Bayne Park in Harding funded through the Environmental Protection Agency has been bid twice with the lowest bid exceeding the funds available. The initial bid came in at more than $225,000 while the second bid was in excess of $500,000. The Committee is working with Princeton Hydro, LLC to determine if revisions can be made to the plans that will permit the project to go forward with the funds available.
Despite the uncertainty of long term funding, the Committee continues to work with the Great Swamp Watershed Association Stream Team Volunteers to sample base and storm flows for various water quality parameters. This project, now in its eighth year, gives scientists and engineers a picture of water quality under a variety of weather conditions for each of the five tributary streams. Information is used, for example to assist us in preparing grant applications.
Major projects are generally thought of as bricks and mortar or studies. During the last year the Ten Towns Committee spent considerable time revising its Intergovernmental Agreements and by-laws. All of the member communities have ratified a revised five- year agreement. This was indeed, a major project that was long overdue.
One of the major strengths of the Ten Towns Committee has been the continuity of leadership during its first ten years of existence. The decisions of Len Hamilton to step down as Chair and Abbie Fair to vacate her post as Secretary created the need for two new officers.
At the June 2005 meeting the Nominating Committee recommended and the full Committee approved the following slate of officers:
- Chair – Jan Wotowicz, Morris Township. Jan has served as a member of the Executive Committee for eight years most recently as Vice Chair. He is a member of the Morris Township Committee and has served as Mayor on several occasions.
- Vice Chair – William Hutchinson, Madison. Bill moves up to Vice Chairman having served as Treasurer for the last several years. He is a licensed professional engineer and is currently the Executive Director/Chief Engineer for the Southeast Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority.
- Treasurer – Terry Thompson, Bernardsville Borough. A long time member of the Ten Towns, her activities include participation in Bernardsville’s Planning Board, Library Board and numerous other civic groups. Most recently Terry co-chaired our Tenth Anniversary Celebration.
- Secretary – Garry Annibal, Harding Township. Garry serves as the Health Administrator as well as the Assistant Township Administrator for Harding Township. He has more than 30 years of progressive experience investigating and resolving environmental, health and safety issues.
The Ten Towns Committee was the first of four watershed groups serving Morris and Somerset Counties. Others are the Rockaway River Watershed Cabinet, the Whippany River Watershed Action Committee and just last year, the Raritan-Highlands Cabinet. Each of the organizations is committed to protecting and improving water quality in the various watersheds.
Under the leadership of Morris Tomorrow’s Issues Committee and the Morris County Freeholders, representatives of each group are meeting to explore opportunities to reduce expenses by potentially sharing services. Water quality testing and sampling are two areas where savings are possible. Each agency must provide liability insurance and other administrative issues that might be the subject of shared services. Ten Towns is committed to exploring all reasonable methods to keeping expenses at the lowest possible costs. We expect that significant progress will be made on shared services in the coming year.