Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act

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The Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act is a 2004 New Jersey law aimed at protecting the Highlands region of northwest New Jersey by regulating development within the region under the supervision of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The Highland region covers 859,000 acres (3,480 km2), nearly one-ninth of the state,[1] and is home to 880,000 residents.[2] The area is primarily in 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 biodiversity in the area, in the face of increasing development in the exurbs of New York City.[3] The act was signed into law on August 10, 2004, by Governor of New Jersey James McGreevey.[2]

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.[2]

A variety of legal challenges to the Highlands Act have already been filed, mostly in state court[citation needed] and at least one in federal court in Trenton. In that case, the Phillipsburg Alliance Church of Phillipsburg, Warren County, sued the Commissioner of the New Jersey 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 (120,000 m2) 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.[4]

The way in which the State of New Jersey delineated the boundaries of the Act have been the subject of dispute.[citation needed] Although many believe that the boundaries of the Act are coextensive with geological and hydrological features, Governor Jim McGreevey has indicated in his book that political considerations also played a role.[citation needed].


The following municipalities are in the region regulated by the act:[5]


  1. ^ Ken Belson (2007-01-15). "In New Jersey, Development Conflicts With a Watershed". The New York Times.
  2. ^ a b c About the Council, accessed January 15, 2007
  3. ^ DEP Guidance for the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act, accessed January 15, 2007
  4. ^ Lawrence Ragonese (2007-02-23). "Church sues over Highlands restrictions". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2007-03-21.
  5. ^ "Assembly Committee Substitute for Assembly, No. 2635" (PDF). New Jersey Legislature. 2004-06-07. §7 pp. 15–16. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-06-20. Retrieved 2007-05-08.

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