Caldwell Council Supports Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act

George Stafford, Outreach Director at the New Jersey Highlands Coalition, holds up a map depicting the NJ municipalities dependent upon water from the Highlands water supply. Credits: Krysta Venturella

CALDWELL, NJ - George Stafford, Outreach Director at the New Jersey Highlands Coalition, spoke before the Caldwell governing body at their Feb. 19 Council Meeting. Stafford gave a detailed explannation of the 2004 Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act, which protects drinking water for over 5.4 million people and helps preserve New Jersey’s dwindling open space; he expressed that the act was important to Caldwell because Essex County is a dependent community in this water system.

Stafford informed the mayor and council that the act was created to protect New Jersey’s water supplies and other significant resources, and that water from the Highlands supports Essex, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset, Union, Bergen, Morris, Passaic, Warren, Hunterdon and parts of Sussex counties. In particular, he informed the governing body that Caldwell receives 25 to 50 percent of its drinking water from sources within the Highlands Region, and that Caldwell and other surrounding towns throughout Essex County rely on the resources of the Highlands to meet the current and future needs of its residents.

“When an argument comes up that we want to do this (development) and it’s not hurting anybody, nobody's complaining,” said Stafford. “Well we want to be able to say there is another side of the story. And you may not be damaging the towns that are receiving water here, but that has to be taken into consideration, their rights to fresh water.”

Councilman Thomas O’Donnell congratulated Stafford on his presentation, and said that he also supports the act.

Mayor Ann Dassing and councilmembers looks on as Councilman Tom O’Donnell expresses his support for the Highlands Act.  Credit:  Krysta Venturella

Mayor Ann Dassing agreed with O’Donnell’s sentiment, and said that the borough has its share of water runoff problems. She also thanked the Caldwell Environmental Commission for passing along information about the act.

Councilman Richard Hauser asked Stafford what the resolution means to him, to which Stafford responded that the Highlands are a great resource, but the changes made there can affect water supply to other towns, such as Caldwell. Stafford noted that proper water management (for instance, during Hurricane Sandy Governor Chris Christie ordered the reservoirs to be lowered) enables the appropriate supply of high quality water to receiving areas.

Councilman John Kelley added that the Caldwell Environmental Commission’s "Resolution of Continuing Support for the Goals and Purposes of the 2004 Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act" was good timing, since the borough is having its own water flow issues.

Later in the meeting, Ann Marchioni of the Caldwell Environmental Commission, invited the councilmembers to her residence on Brookside Road to see the holes in the road, which she said are getting larger over time, referring to the sections of damaged road in front of her house. Marchioni thanked the council for bringing up the topic of water seepage and said she hopes they move forward with the repairs, as it could remedy the water that flows into her backyard, making it look “like a swimming pool.”

In regards to these repairs, Borough Administrator Paul M. Carelli reported on the Water Capital Ordinance, informing the council that the costs estimates were now $1.5 million, whereas before the estimates were at $975,000. Carelli stated that the projects should have been done some time ago, but now the water projects and road improvements should be done at the same time to keep costs down. The borough attorney said that the best approach to get a more accurate estimate would be to obtain Requests For Proposal (RFP) for both the water main and the water projects in one. The motion was passed quickly by Carelli with a second an instant later from O’Donnell.

Water Dependent Communities on the Highlands Water Supply
- click on map to open it fully. Credit: New Jersey Highlands Coalition

The NJ Highlands Council in 2008 determined the following Water Supply statistics:

Towns dependent upon 0% of the Highlands Water Supply
  • East Orange
  • South Orange
Towns dependent upon receiving up to 25% of their water from the Highlands Water Supply
  • City of Orange
  • Essex Fells
  • Livingston
  • Roseland
Towns dependent upon receiving 26-50% of their water from the Highlands Water Supply
  • Caldwell
  • Fairfield
  • Irvington
  • Maplewood
  • Millburn
  • West Caldwell
  • West Orange
Towns dependent upon receiving 51-75% of their water from the Highlands Water Supply
  • Belleville
  • Cedar Grove
  • Glen Ridge
  • Newark
  • Nutley
Towns dependent upon receiving over 75% of their water from the Highlands Water Supply
  • Bloomfield
  • Montclair
  • North Caldwell
  • Verona

In Other News

Kelley questioned if the resolution authorizing a lease agreement for a term of three years for the purchase of a new police vehicle not to exceed $10,900 was already included in the 2013 budget. Carelli responded that the borough staggers leases of police vehicles and that this addition will not add to the 2013 budget, just this specific line item, because it was already part of the planned budget. There are currently seven police vehicles in Caldwell, but last year the borough spent $27,000 in repairs alone, exceeding the maintenance budget allotted.

Hauser informed the council that the matter with Michael Mignone (discussed in this article), a Caldwell resident, has been resolved and Mignone was returned the fees for three months of membership at the Caldwell Community Center. Hauser also noted that Mignone wishes to rejoin the community center, after reviewing the rules and procedures in place.

The mayor announced that she will be making her dancing debut on Saturday, Feb. 23 at James Caldwell High School at the “Dancing With Our Community Stars” event. The mayor joked that she will be “forever in someone’s DVD collection.”

The next meeting of the Caldwell Council will be on Tuesday, March 5, at 7pm.

For further information:
Borough of Caldwell
Mayor: Ann Dassing

1 Provost Square
Caldwell, N.J. 07006

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