The Ten Towns Great Swamp Watershed Management Committee is an inter-municipal organization in New Jersey established in June 1995 to provide an effective regional watershed management program in the Great Swamp watershed. The Committee is comprised of three representatives from each of the ten municipalities within the geographic limits of the Great Swamp watershed, located approximately 30 miles west of New York City.
The beginnings of the Committee actually trace back to the late 1960's when the New York-New Jersey Port Authority proposed construction of a regional airport in the watershed. There was strong opposition to this proposal by citizens recognizing the highly environmentally sensitive nature of the watershed and the value of this natural resource in the New York metropolitan area. A citizens' group was formed which resulted in purchase or donation of more than 1,000 acres which were designated as a national wildlife refuge in the 1970's.
|Additional history from this era is included in the Keynote Address "Sustainable Stewardship" delivered by Dr. Len Hamilton at the Ten Towns Committee's Tenth Anniversary Celebration on June 24, 2005.
In the early 1980’s, Chatham Township proposed an expansion of their sewage treatment plant, which is located within the Great Swamp watershed. As a part of the public comment process, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection established a broad-based committee of stakeholders known as the Great Swamp Watershed Advisory Committee (GSWAC). After nearly four years of study and deliberation, the GSWAC issued a set of recommendations for better stormwater management within the Great Swamp watershed.
The recommendations of the GSWAC were incorporated into legislation that proposed an independent commission to oversee development and regulate environmental protection in the Great Swamp watershed. Morris 2000, a non-partisan, county wide volunteer organization dealing with regional issues recognized that this type of “top-down” approach would be opposed by local municipalities that have authority for land use decisions under the New Jersey land use law.
Given the likely failure or, at best, limited success of the proposed independent commission, Morris 2000 took the initiative to contact legislators, interested citizen groups and all municipalities in the Great Swamp watershed to seek an alternative course of action. The result was the establishment of the Ten Towns Committee in June 1995, through an inter-municipal agreement that was adopted unanimously by the governing bodies of each community.