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LOPATCONG CREEK INITIATIVE

Lopatcong Creek Initiative

Our Mission

Lopatcong Creek Initiative (LCI) is a program of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition to restore water quality in the Lopatcong Creek watershed in southwestern Warren County. LCI is part of the Highlands Cluster, a network of organizations working in the portion of the New Jersey Highlands that drain to the Delaware River, and part of the four-state Delaware River basin-wide Delaware River Watershed Initiative, an unprecedented collaboration of over 50 nonprofits working to restore water quality with funding provided by the William Penn Foundation.

Through education and outreach, our mission is to:

  • Encourage river-friendly living and farming throughout the Lopatcong Creek Watershed.
  • Restore and protect the ecological health of our local water resources.
  • Facilitate river-friendly practices by connecting interested farmers, businesses, and municipalities with partner organizations that can provide programs and funding for their assistance.

Do you live in the Lopatcong Creek Watershed? Simply input any address into our interactive map to find out.

Want to help monitor the ecological health of Lopatcong Creek? Learn more about collecting and sharing water-quality data at Monitor My Watershed.

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Most of the surface water of the New Jersey Highlands eventually flows into New York Harbor via the Passaic or Raritan rivers. However, six Highlands rivers flow into the Delaware River. One, the Lopatcong Creek, and its watershed, which is shared by five Warren County municipalities, is the focus of an exciting expansion of our advocacy work. Philadelphia’s William Penn Foundation (WPF), has made a major financial commitment to improving water quality in the Delaware River. WPF is funding environmental and conservation projects throughout the Delaware Basin. Nine organizations working in the Highlands, including the NJ Highlands Coalition, have projects funded under the WPF initiative. In the Lopatcong Creek watershed we are joined by New Jersey Audubon and North Jersey Resource Conservation & Development (NJRC&D) in launching WPF-funded projects.

Through our program, the Lopatcong Creek Initiative, we aim to educate area residents, businesses, farmers, students, municipal officials, service organizations, recreational, and other groups about the inherent connections each have with the Lopatcong Creek. Through community engagement and education, our goal is to improve trout habitat as a measure of improved water quality.

We want to instill an understanding of the impacts that individuals have on the health and well being of the river; if we succeed, the community will in turn develop an appreciation of how the health and wellbeing of the river is directly linked to their own.

We will provide information to the community on how they can improve the river’s ecological health and increase opportunities for recreational access to the river. A better informed community is far more likely to act responsibly and make better choices where their actions might impact the river.

Despite being revered by area fisherman, the river is largely unnoticed by the greater community. We will increase the public’s awareness of the river with programs developed by the Musconetcong Watershed Association that have a track record of success in nearby communities.

Our WPF-funded partners share in our goals: NJRC&D aims to produce a comprehensive Watershed Restoration and Protection Plan. They have also designed and proposed a project to separate the Lopatcong Creek from the path of the Morris Canal in Greenwich Township, where the river and canal had merged after the canal was decommissioned in 1924, and to re-establish its natural floodplain.

NJ Audubon is preparing a project of riparian restoration to stabilize eroded stream banks and to cool the water with the shade of native trees. Their focus will be on the farming community with whom they hope to implement a program of Riparian Corridor Best Management Practices.

The Creek is often referred to as the hidden jewel of Lopatcong. It is renowned by those who are acquainted with it. Yet it has been overlooked by the communities through which the river flows. We hope to help generate the attention it deserves by promoting the benefits of river-friendly community living and farming throughout the region.

All of the Preservation Area must be in conformance with the RMP but the Planning Area is optional. There are 88 towns in the Highlands. Five are completely in the Preservation Area; 47 are partially in the Preservation Area and partially in the Planning Area; 36 are wholly in the Planning Area. Any town in the Highlands is wholly in the Highlands region. Although it is protected by the Highlands Act, the Planning Area is still susceptible to sprawl and resource depletion if the municipality decides not to “opt-in” and apply the policies and objectives of the RMP to all of its land. There are myriad reasons why a township and its citizens could decide to “opt-in”.

• Protecting and Replenishing Our Water Resources
The Highlands region is a critical source of drinking water for 5.4 million people throughout the state. While residents depend on the groundwater and aquifers, surface water and reservoirs serve over 10 counties. The RMP contains numerous policies and objectives for protecting these resources and preserving the quality of our aquifers.There are 183 sub-watersheds in the Highlands region. Currently 114 of these sub-watersheds are in deficit. The lack of availability in water supply will be a major factor in what future development can go forward in the Highlands. The RMP protects our finite water supply from over development and further degradation, which will prevent tremendous expenditures on water filtration in the future.The RMP includes protections for groundwater recharge and wellhead protection areas. Wellhead protections prevent development activities that could potentially pollute our well water supply. Groundwater recharge areas are critical for ensuring that surface water is successfully filtered back into our aquifers. The protections afforded to our water resources through conformance to the RMP will ensure that the Highlands can continue to provide clean, plentiful drinking water throughout the state.

• Smart Growth, Tax Stabilization, and Increased Property Values
Conformance will promote smart growth! The RMP stops the strain on the school system, police and fire departments, and infrastructure (traffic) that results from increasing residential development. The tax revenue created by residential homes does not compensate for the increased use of these public services, resulting in higher property taxes where residential development is rampant. Open space is in fact the best ratable for a municipality as it costs nothing to maintain and increases the value of properties around it. Conforming to the RMP will result in more open space preservation, higher property values, and less development that generates tax increases which in turn will stabilize the tax rate. Tax Stabilization Funds will also be available where appropriate to ensure that the implementation of the RMP has no negative effect on the municipal budget.

• Preserve the Character and Quality of our Communities
The protections afforded to scenic vistas, historic and cultural resources, agricultural lands, and sustainable economic development ensure that the Highlands will not become an example of urban sprawl. As the most densely populated state in the union, sprawl is a constant threat and the RMP will keep intact the character and quality of life in our communities. Not only do the regulations in the RMP prevent dense development but conformance to it safeguards municipalities from developers’ lawsuits, if they attempt to force development that conflicts with the RMP.

• Regional Planning Works! Higher Property Values and Lower Property Taxes
Regional planning yields a myriad of benefits as can be seen in the Pinelands region. The Pinelands Commission was formed in 1979 and has utilized a comprehensive management plan whose benefits can be seen today. This CMP is similar to the RMP in that the Commission reviews and certifies all municipal zoning and land-use ordinances and master plans. Today homes in the Pinelands region have a higher median sales price and lower property taxes than their neighbors outside the region. The effective tax rate in the Pinelands (ratio of taxes to property value) is much lower compared to its neighbors. These successes result from a regional planning approach and the Highlands is now taking a similar path with hopes to achieve comparable outcomes.
Pinelands Economic Indicator Report: http://www.state.nj.us/pinelands/landuse/econ/

• Lowered Affordable Housing Obligation
Through conformance, affordable housing obligations can be met using the RMP build-out numbers that incorporate sustainable, natural resource availability, rather than the higher projections from the Council on Affordable Housing that do not consider these limitations.
A spreadsheet outlining the different housing obligations is available by clicking here.

• Preservation of Our Natural Resources
Resource protection and critical habitat preservation are two of the main goals of plan conformance. By opting in to the RMP, future growth will be dictated by sustainable resource availability (water, land, sewer and septic capabilities) to ensure that smart growth, not resource depletion, occurs. The Highlands region provides drinking water for 5.4 million people living between Bergen County and the City of Camden. By conforming to the RMP, Highlands municipalities can better protect these water supplies and the recharge areas, ground and surface waters that continue to provide it. As New Jersey’s population continues to increase, the importance of clean, potable water cannot be underscored enough. By protecting these resources now we avoid spending millions in tax dollars on water filtration and treatment systems in the future.The Highlands is home to a number of threatened and endangered species that will be further protected through conformance to the Regional Master Plan. Species such as the bog turtle and Indiana bat are already endangered and are highly susceptible to habitat fragmentation from development. The Highlands Council has determined that 61% of the Highlands region can serve as potential habitat for rare, threatened, and endangered species. The RMP works to protect the biodiversity of the Highlands by restricting what development can go forward in these areas and requiring the minimization and mitigation of negative impacts that do occur.

• Access to Grant Money and Priority Open Space Preservation Funding
The Highlands Council provides grants and technical assistance to municipalities for conformance so this process does not rely on municipal resources. By conforming, the municipality receives priority open space preservation funding, especially important to farmers in conformed towns who wish to participate in the Farmland Preservation program.

• State Plan Endorsement Equivalent
Conformance with the RMP is the equivalent of, and will be treated as, State Plan Endorsement which also opens up state funding and planning and technical assistance for the conformed municipality.

Are you a river-friendly resident? Nonpoint source pollution is a major contributor to the contamination of streams and rivers. It is the result of pollution carried by storm water into our drinking water.No matter where you live, you live in a watershed, which is the area of land that drains into a common body of water. This means that many of the day-to-day choices you make directly impact on the greater community, good or bad.Being river-friendly is often a matter of being aware of how our actions affect the water quality of Lopatcong Creek.Here are some tips on the small things you can do to make a big difference:Reduce the need to fertilize your lawn by leaving grass clippings in place after mowing.Use mulch in your garden to keep soil moist and save water.Consider Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to control insects, animal and plant pests around your household in ways that minimize risk to humans and the environment. For example, attract insect-feeding birds by providing water and the appropriate feed to reduce the need for harmful chemicals.Create or expand plant beds to serve as buffers near water bodies, streets, driveways, and sidewalks to reduce runoff to keep fertilizers on your lawn.Plant trees. Trees act as natural filters by removing nutrients and other pollution from storm water. Trees also improve air quality, reduce energy consumption by shading and cooling our homes and businesses, and provide valuable habitat.Use the right plant in the right place. Select plants based on the conditions in your yard and the requirements of the plant (soil type, amount of sunlight, mature size of plant, etc.). Utilize plants and turf grasses that can rely mostly on normal rainfall conditions. Native plants are the best choice because they are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions and provide habitat for wildlife.Always recycle or dispose of hazardous chemicals properly and never pour them down storm drains, which lead directly back to your faucet. Find out if/when your community sponsors hazardous waste collections.Conserve water. Fix leaky faucets and hoses and sweep your sidewalk or driveway instead of hosing it off.Get out and enjoy the natural splendor of your local streams and their surroundings. A little appreciation goes a long way.Spread the word. Encourage your friends and neighbors to do their part to protect our local water. Walk more, hike more, with family, with friends.

We are eager to build a team of volunteers for upcoming events and activities.If you’re interested in joining our team, want to stay informed, have questions or suggestions to share, please complete the contact form above.

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