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Summary of the New Jersey Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act

On June 10, 2004, both houses of the New Jersey Legislature passed the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act. This bill--signed by the governor on August 10--is the most significant piece of state land use legislation since the State Planning Act of 1985, and is among the most significant environmental bills ever passed by the State of New Jersey.

That said, the bill is not entirely without precedent, even in New Jersey. The new regional planning program for the Highlands resembles that established for the Pinelands region of the state in 1979. As in the Highlands case, protection of fresh water was a primary motivation behind the 1979 Pinelands bill. One difference between the two cases is the greater development pressure and larger non-rural population that characterizes the Highlands region of the state, which lies along the Appalachian ridge between Bergen and Hunterdon counties.

This Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) Cooperative Extension hypertext fact sheet is designed to familiarize the citizens of New Jersey with the most important aspects of the new Highlands legislation and the planning program it puts into place. This summary is not meant to be comprehensive, and it does not necessarily follow the order and structure of the bill itself. In addition, this summary should not be used as a legal reference: It does not replicate exact language, and professional judgment was used to consolidate and interpret the bill in light of its most important features.

If you would like to see a complete copy of the bill, go to the state legislature's web site and type S1 or A2635 into "Bill Search." The bill that passed on June 10, shown on the site as "Reprint--151 pages," can be downloaded in PDF format.