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August 05, 2004 (rt23 news) - (Newfoundland, NJ) For many years the dry, rocky bed of the Pequannock River has been a familiar summer sight when flows in the river were reduced to a mere trickle. Controlled by the City of Newark through reservoir operations, these inadequate flows caused elevated water temperatures that were lethal to the river’s wild trout, impacted other aquatic life and undermined recreational values. In addition, the combined flows of the Pequannock River, Ramapo River and Wanaque River are pumped from the Pompton River into the Wanaque Reservoir as potable supply. Algae blooms have repeatedly prevented use of this pumping station, particularly when high-grade Pequannock flows were reduced, causing water quality there to plummet.

Spurred by a flow-induced fish-kill in 1995, the Pequannock River Coalition began an intensive long-term campaign to see these problems addressed. Their award-winning water temperature monitoring program was stringent enough for the group to be licensed as a laboratory by the NJDEP and allowed their data to be formally utilized by the state. Results placed a number of river segments and tributaries on a federal list of "impaired" waterways for temperature problems; an effort that is now yielding benefits.

Recently the NJDEP Bureau of Water Allocation and the Division of Watershed Management renewed the permit that allows Newark to tap water from the Pequannock system. Contained in the permit are new requirements for river flows and limits on water temperatures. Beginning on August 1st the flow required below Newark’s reservoir system will be 12.3 cubic-feet-per-second. Within 90 days additional requirements will impact releases from Oak Ridge Reservoir.

"That’s a huge improvement,” said Coalition Director Ross Kushner. “Flows on the river often run much lower. In fact, they occasionally bottom out at zero. We have always maintained that Newark has a right to withdraw water from the Pequannock, that right is balanced by a responsibility. Every reservoir permit in New Jersey is based on the presumption that passing flows can and will be provided, even during the worst drought on record. In this case Newark wasn’t playing by the rules."

According to Kushner the new flow regime could bring the river back to its rightful position as the premier wild trout fishery in the state. In addition, the group believes the algae blooms once experienced at the Pompton River pumping station may become just a memory. “It’s a win-win situation,” Kushner insists, “for water supply and our natural resources.”

Two questions that remain are whether Newark will meet the new permit conditions, and how far the State will go toward enforcement. “To-date, Newark hasn’t complied” said Kushner. “That can mean fines of up to $5,000 a day, so we’re waiting to see how the State reacts. If necessary we can pursue our own legal action.”

The Pequannock River Coalition is a grassroots citizen’s group dedicated to preservation of the Pequannock River. In addition to their water monitoring program they conduct river clean ups, hikes, tours, restoration projects and serve as environmental watchdogs and advocates in the 11 communities of the Pequannock Watershed. For more information write them at P.O. Box 392, Newfoundland, NJ 07435; call (973) 492-3212 or visit their website at

Posted by: Staff at
Website: Pequannock River Coalition
August 05, 2004


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