Stormwater is an important issue in New Jersey. Stormwater runoff causes flooding and pollutes streams, lakes and rivers. And, it is becoming worse due to climate change.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is now requiring more objective rules and standards around stormwater management in municipal stormwater regulations and strategies. The benefits of these new rules include minimizing pollutants in stormwater runoff from new and existing development and reducing flood damage or soil erosion from construction. In a steep-sloped, flood-prone, stream-surrounded town like Montclair, these stricter regulations become even more important for reducing water quantity and increasing water quality.
The new stormwater rules will take full effect on March 2, 2021. Towns are required to revise their Stormwater Management Plans to include the new requirements. On December 21, 2020 the Planning Board approved changes to Montclair’s Stormwater Management Plan. With this approval, the Town Council will now vote to pass an ordinance making the changes official.
The Montclair Environmental Commission made several recommendations to strengthen the plan at that the December 21st meeting, including:
- the town look to daylight streams (uncover them so they are not underground) in neighborhoods that surround flood zones;
- the green infrastructure and low impact techniques that are listed in the plan, be prioritized based on their ecological value;
- the plan be more explicit in defining "native vegetation" to ensure the right plants are selected to maximize the benefits to the environment;
- impervious pedestrian paths and areas be included in the water quality standard along with impervious driving surfaces;
- the building of vegetative riparian buffers be considered around our ponds to slow flow and filter the water before it enters these waterbodies; and
- that we measure the impact of these stormwater management changes on water quantity and quality.
Given the timing, our recommendations were not included in this initial passage. However, the Planning Board was very interested in including some or all as amendments in the near future. We’ll update on progress made here!
What can you do at home?
Here are a few ways you can address stormwater to decrease volume and minimize pollutants:
Plant strategically: plant native trees or install a rain garden in areas where runoff collects. Lawns do not absorb water as well as native plantings. Trees absorb water at their roots and can intervene up to 70% of rainwater through their canopy. Trees to consider that absorb the most water in our area (and are native) include Swamp White and Willow Oaks, Weeping Willow, Red Maple, River Birch, Black Gum, White Cedar, among others.
Catch runoff: install a rain barrel or cistern to catch runoff from roofs
Go permeable: Choose a permeable material for a driveway, patio or path.
Avoid pollutants that can run off your yard/driveway: Refrain from using pesticides, synthetic fertilizers. Clean up vehicle fluid drippings and pet waste.
We provide some resources above and there are numerous resources online. New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection offers ideas here.