DEP plans revisions to N.J. flood mitigation, water protection rules

In a rare victory for environmental groups, New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection has agreed to revise a proposal that would alter rules on flood hazards and coastal management.

Ray Cantor, the chief adviser to the DEP commissioner, said the department officials will rework the proposal.

“We plan to make material changes to address various issues — including what you can and cannot do in stream buffers, making sure that headwaters are protected, ensuring there will be more and more effective mitigation,” he said Tuesday.

But New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel remained skeptical that the DEP will make changes that environmentalists seek.

“I have concern that they’ll do the minimal and then say they did something, and we’ll still have a rule that will weaken water protections and increase flooding,” he said.

David Pringle, the New Jersey campaign director for Clean Water Action, also said he doesn’t trust the DEP to develop a plan that will satisfy environmentalists.

“I think it’s clear that, left to their own devices, this administration can’t be trusted when it comes to protecting the environment,” Pringle said.

Senate Environment Committee Chairman Bob Smith, however, said lawmakers shouldn’t be at war with the administration.

“We, as the legislature, should try to work with the executive branch as long as, at the end of the day, the environment is not compromised,” he said. “Let’s see what you can do.”

The proposed rules violated legislative intent, said Smith, and if revisions don’t pass muster, lawmakers could vote to rescind the DEP’s proposal.

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