FLEMINGTON, NJ – The county Freeholders have filed objections with the state about its proposed rules to expand water quality protections.

Freeholder Director Suzanne Lagay announced at yesterday’s Freeholder meeting that the filing was submitted on Monday, which was the deadline set by the Department of Environmental Protection for comments on its plan.

The DEP seeks to extend the highest protections to sections of 19 streams and their tributaries, which Lagay said would affect 13 Hunterdon municipalities. The county’s objection is to the designation of five of those streams, with Raritan Township Mayor Jeff Kuhl telling the Freeholders that if the rule is adopted as-is, “Basically, Raritan Township is out of business.”

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In the filing, Lagay said the county is “significantly concerned” that the DEP plan “fails to appropriately provide notice” to those affected.

“Our fear is … the vast majority of our residents and businesses will learn of what this regulation means to them when their septic system fails, when they attempt to remove a bush or tree within 300 feet of a newly upgraded stream which passes their property or when they attempt to sell and find their property has lost value,” Lagay told DEP.

The letter notes that Hunterdon “has long supported the goal of superior water quality and protecting the county’s natural resources,” and cites Hunterdon’s preservation of more than 33,000 acres of farmland and acquisition of 8,000 acres of open space.

In objecting to the extended protections, the letter states that DEP did not “provide sufficient basis and background information including the social and economic impacts.”

Lagay wrote that implementing the expanded protections “will be devastating for Hunterdon County residents.”

The protections have sparked passionate conversation from both environmentalists who are in favor, and business interests that object.

The Freeholders are not alone in their opposition to DEP. The governing bodies in the town of Clinton; boroughs of Flemington and High Bridge; and townships of Raritan and Clinton have also approved resolutions in opposition to the state plan.

The county’s entire remarks are posted to its website.