Monday, July 24, 2006
Huge Victory for the Musconetcong?
Musconetcong to be National Wild and Scenic River
CURRENT HOUSE FLOOR PROCEEDINGS
LEGISLATIVE DAY OF JULY 24, 2006
109TH CONGRESS - SECOND SESSION
2:36 P.M. -
Mr. Walden (OR) moved to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended.
H.R. 1307 to amend the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to designate portions of the Musconetcong River in the State of New Jersey as a component of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection. On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended Agreed to by voice vote.
I simply can't resist the temptation to count the chickens before the eggs hatch, but it looks like the Musky will be included in the nation's Hall of Fame for rivers, based on it's "Outstandingly Remarkable" natural and cultural features.
All that is needed at this point is the signature of the leader of the free world who recently revealed his aptitude for foreigh policy by saying, "Russia is big and so is China." Hopefully President Bush will do the right thing and sign the Musky designation legislation into law.
The effort began in early 1990's when former Warren County Freeholder Susan Dickey and members of the Musconetcong Watershed Association began circulating a petition for a Wild and Scenic Rivers eligibility study. In 1996 the National Park Service agreed to conduct such a study and provided funding for same. That became my primary task when I came to work for the MWA, serving as its executive director until 2003.
A stellar cast of volunteers from Hopatcong to Pohatcong gathered an impressive amount of supporting evidence that the Musky is indeed one of the most outstanding remarkable rivers in not only New Jersey, but the entire region. All but one of 26 municipalities within the watershed supported the study and designation. That one exception, Pohatcong Township has also never supported the Lower Delaware designation (unfortunately, it sits at the confluence of the two rivers). The town leaders simply could not grasp the concept of the Partnership Rivers program, which is tailored to rivers that flow through primarily private lands. The NPS does not have any regulatory authority over land use decisions - the existing system of local, county and state government remains exactly the same. Similarly, the NPS has no regulatory authority over boating and fishing, which remains with the state agencies, in this case NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife.
What the designation will bring is funding from NPS (which must be matched) to carry out goals of the management plan. One such goal is removal of obsolete lowhead dams, an effort that is already underway. Another benefit is that the NPS must review any project that requires federal permits or involves fed funding, such as dam construction.
And, since the NJDEP has completely dropped the ball on watershed management, the Musky W&S designation provides for the continuation of a river management committee that looks at the big picture beyond municipal and county borders. Other benefits to the river and its historic communities will also come with the National Wild and Scenic designation. Details to follow.
Congratulations to the Musconetcong Watershed Association and all those people who care about one of our nation's great waterways!