Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act

The Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act is a 2004 New Jersey law aimed at protecting the development of the Highlands region of northwest New Jersey under the supervision of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The Highland region covers , nearly one-ninth of the state, and is home to 880,000 residents. The area is primarily in the Warren, Morris, Hunterdon, Passaic, and Sussex counties. The act is intended to preserve both large volumes of New Jersey's fresh water sources for 5.4 million residents and the rich biodiversity in the area, in the face of increasing development in the exurbs of New York City. The act was signed into law on August 10, 2004, by Governor of New Jersey James McGreevey.

The provisions of the Act are monitored and controlled by the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council. The Council has 15 members, with a minimum of eight officials named from the Highlands Region, at least five of whom are municipal officials and three of whom must be county officials.

A variety of legal challenges to the Highlands Act have already been filed, mostly in state court and at least one in federal court in Trenton. In that case, the Phillipsburg Alliance Church of Phillipsburg, Warren County, sued the Commissioner of New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection seeking to enjoin her and NJDEP from denying the church an exemption under the Highlands Act which would permit it to build its proposed new church sanctuary on a 30 acre parcel in neighboring Lopatcong, New Jersey. The property lies on the boundary of the Highland's Act's preservation zone, on the boundary of the planning zone. The case was brought by the law firm of Kilpatrick Stockton.

The method of the State's delineation of the boundaries of the Act have come under attack. Although many would believe that the boundary would be coextensive with geological or hydrological features, political considerations were mentioned by former Governor Jim McGreevey referred to the Act in his recently published tell-all book. His deposition is one of the state court cases is due to be held in late March 2007.


The following municipalities are in the region regulated by the act:


External links

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