panel charged with protecting watersheds

By louis c. hochman

Staff Writer

MILLSTONE – The township has approved, after much discussion, the creation of a Watershed Management and Preservation Council.

The Township Committee adopted an ordinance which creates the watershed council and adds two alternate members to Millstone’s environmental commission.

The terms of the alternate members will generally be two years, although the second alternate appointed this year will only serve a one-year term, so as to stagger the expiration date of the terms.

The watershed council will consist of nine members, appointed by the Township Committee: a regular member of the environmental commission, the two alternate members of the environmental commission, a member of the Open Space and Farmland Preservation Council, a farmer, four township residents and a liaison from the committee.

The resolution states that, if possible, the four residents on the panel will each come from a different major watershed area in the township.

Mayor Cory Wingerter said a farmer was included because farmers’ interests may not always coincide with the interests of other residents and the committee wanted to give all affected groups a voice on the commission.

"We want to make sure they don’t feel any more restricted," he said.

Committeeman William Kastning said because Millstone has land in four of the state’s five major watershed areas, it holds a heavy responsibility for care.

"We are an environmentally sensitive community," he said. "It is incumbent on us to keep the water as pure as possible."

He said it is important not only to preserve water for Millstone’s benefit, but for the benefit of all the municipalities downstream of Millstone.

The watershed commission will be scheduled to meet once a month, but meetings will not be required in July and August.

Its powers and duties, as outlined by the ordinance, are:

"To serve as a permanent subcommittee of the Environmental Commission. … To foster and promote the management, restoration and preservation of watershed areas within the township. … To work cooperatively with the nonprofit and governmental organizations whose objectives include the appropriate management, restoration and preservation of watershed areas.

"To assist interested parties with processing applications for watershed management, restoration and preservation with applicable county and state offices. … To help create and disseminate information promoting watershed management, restoration and preservation. … To create and promote educational programs concerning the importance of watershed areas for assuring quality of life.

"As requested, to assist other township agencies, regarding watershed management, restoration and preservation issues. … To retain such professional consultants relating to watershed management, restoration and preservation as deemed reasonable and necessary to the council. … To recommend to the Environmental Commission adoption of ordinances designed to protect, restore and preserve watershed areas and stream/river corridors.

"To explore any and all possible funding for opportunities for the development and implementation of programs to protect, restore and preserve watershed areas. … To recommend to the Environmental Commission the preservation of public lands and purchases of private lands or easements to protect and preserve watershed areas and to increase the public’s opportunity to experience benefits of proper watershed management."

Kastning said because the township will have a watershed commission, more grant money from the state Department of Environmental Protection will be available.

Although some individual members of the Environmental Commission had expressed concern over the creation of a watershed management group, the commission sent out a letter last month officially endorsing the creation of the panel.