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Working to protect critical land and water resources in the Garden State from pollution and overdevelopment. Main focus includes NJ Highlands, the Pinelands, and Barnegat Bay.

New Jersey Highlands

The New Jersey Highlands is 80,000 acres of largely contiguous forest stretching from Northwest Bergen County to Northern Hunterdon County. The Highlands is one of New Jersey's most important natural resources and is critical to New Jersey's environment and economy.

The New Jersey Highlands Protection Act is one of New Jersey's most important drinking water laws. Since passage of this landmark law, Clean Water Action has been working to implement and strengthen the Highlands Regional Master Plan. In addition, we helped secure a Highlands Executive Order (EO) that addresses some of the master plan's flaws and strengthens the document further by ensuring little to no growth in preservation zone communities.

Unfortunately, the Highlands Council, charged with implementing this law, consists of very weak members, including Jim Rilee, a known OPPONENT of the Highlands Act itself! We believe in common sense, however its not common sense to put someone in charge of implementing a law they don't believe in. Clean Water Action will continue working to ensure the Highlands Regional Master Plan is the most protective it can be and the towns fully comply within the mandated time table.

At the same time, we will maintain a keen eye on local development projects for their consistency with the overall Highlands protection strategy.

The Importance of Protecting the Highlands

  • The Highlands Region serves 4.6 million (half of NJ) residents with drinking water outside the region. An additional 850,000 people who live within the Highlands also draw water from the ecosystem.
  • Our 3 largest industries (food processing, recreation-tourism-fishing and pharmaceuticals) are all dependent on the Highlands for water.
  • More recreational visitors go to the NY-New Jersey Highlands each year than Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Canyon National parks combined, making the Highlands an integral component of New Jersey's eco-tourism economy.
  • Nearly 150 threatened and endangered species call the New Jersey Highlands their home.
  • More than 110 out of the 183 subwatersheds in the Highlands are in water deficit today. 3-5,000 acres of the Highlands are lost to development every year.
  • If the Highlands are not adequately protected, the cost for additional water treatment (excluding health care costs) in its service area alone would be $100 billion over the next 50 years.

New Jersey Pinelands

PRovided By Pinelands Preservation AllianceThe Pinelands is a national treasure and provider of clean drinking water to millions of state residents and home to a trillion gallon aquifer. Clean Water Action has joined a coalition of over 40 organizations to stop a pipeline from being built in the Pinelands. Our 40 organizations represent hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans and voters who also oppose the pipeline. Click here to learn more about the campaign and take action!

South Jersey Gas has submitted a proposal to put a natural gas pipeline through a portion of the Pinelands Forest Management Area. The proposal would place 22 miles of 24-inch pipeline through Atlantic, Cape May, and Cumberland Counties in order to provide the B.L. England Plant located in Beesley's Point, Cape May County with natural gas. If approved, the construction of the SJG pipeline would will cause long term harm to Pinelands forests and waterways: habitat loss, compaction of soils, more runoff and erosion in waterways, changes to hydrogeology potentially impacting aquifers and groundwater.

The Importance of Protecting the Pinelands

  • The Pinelands is a globally rare ecoystem, home to plants and animals found nowhere else in the U.S.
  • One of the largest freshwater aquifers in the U.S. can be found within the sandy soils of the Pinelands.
  • The proposed route through the Pinelands Forest Management Area violates the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP). The CMP permits such public service infrastructure in the Forest Management Area only when it is "intended to primarily serve the needs of the Pinelands." N.J.A.C. 7:50-5.23. There is no exception for pipes to run along or under roads.
  • The pipeline would carry gas from Pennsylvania to resurrect the BL England Power Plant at the mouth of the Great Egg Wild and Scenic River. The plant was built in 1961 and burns coal and oil. It is under orders to close down or convert to natural gas, and for the past several years has only operated for peak demand.
  • Every year that BL England continues to operate without cooling towers, it kills millions of fish, larvae, eggs, marine mammals and sea turtles and emits over 1.2 million tons of CO2 into the air. 

For more information on this campaign, click here.

Barnegat Bay

Clean Water Action, working in partnership with Save Barnegat Bay, Grandmothers, Mothers & More for Energy Safety (GRAMMES) and other organizations, is working to protect Barnegat Bay from pollution and overdevelopment.

Overdevelopment is the primary threat to the Barnegat Bay ecosystem and to the quality of life for those who live in or visit the Barnegat Bay area. Barnegat Bay is also under serious threat from pollution caused from the misuse and overuse of phosphate and nitrogen-based fertilizers, one of the biggest sources of pollution for New Jersey's waterways.

Oyster Creek nuclear power plant, the oldest in the country, also contributes ecological harm. Approximately 2 billion gallons of Barnegat Bay water is strained of life by the cooling systems each day. The plume of polluted, heated water is then released back into the bay, devoid of all marine life and disrupting the natural ecology of the bay. This heated water has increased the number of algal blooms and caused a major decline in the overall health of the bay.

To help ease stress on the Bay, we helped to ensure early closure of the Oyster Creek Nuclear Power plant in 2019. We also helped pass one of the nation's toughest restrictions on the sale and use of lawn fertilizer, which is considered a significant contributor of excessive nutrients that are driving ecological change in the Bay. We've also pushed for other measures that would require post-construction restoration of soil similar to the area and help control storm water runoff and pollution.

But so much more needs to be done. The health of the Bay is crucial to a 3.4 billion dollar shore economy including tourism, boating, fishing and real estate values. The Bay has experienced a reduction of fin fish and shellfish from loss of sea grass habitat. These crashing numbers impact industry and sport.

Years of stormwater runoff pollution from too much development and too little fresh water flow to the Bay have caused a condition known as "eutrophication". This excessive fertilization of the water creates a cascade of impacts on the life of the Bay, including too much algae, destruction of seagrass beds, and an increase of stinging jellyfish - all of which harm our enjoyment of the Bay and our region's economy. The good news is that there are solutions and the cycle of decline can be reversed.

To learn more about solutions and how we can work together to restore the Bay, please contact us at

The Importance of Protecting Barnegat Bay

  • Barnegat Bay covers 75 square miles, making it the largest coastal bay in New Jersey, up to four miles wide and about 42 miles long. The estuary gets freshwater flows from an adjoining watershed of 660 square miles that covers most of Ocean County and extends into southern and western Monmouth County.
  • The bay's annual economic impact to the region was estimated at $3.3 billion in 2007.
  • The federal EPA has spent up to $1 million a year for the last 15 years to fund scientific studies, public education and grants for local conservation projects through the Barnegat Bay partnership. Yet, an EPA spokesman has said that "additional actions are needed to fully restore and protect the Bay."
  • More than 30 percent of the bay watershed has been paved and built over to accomodate population. The less open space, the higher the stress on the bay.
  • Clams declined by two-thirds from the late 1980s to 2001 in the bay's southern end, while native eel-grass beds throughout the bay have shrunk by 60 percent since the 1970s.
  • Some 1.4 million pounds of nitrogen compounds--enough to fill 70,000 20-pound bags of fertilizer--flow into the bay every year, causing massive algae blooms--which over time can kill almost everything else in the bay. Two-thirds of the nitrogen comes from an increasingly urban landscape, according to a December analysis by the U.S.G.S.
  • Stormwater drains in the bay are in disrepair and no longer can do their jobs at keeping tainted water from reaching the bay. Polluted storm water, which carries everything from fertilizer residue to animal waste up to 60 miles downstream, flows freely into the bay with each heavy rain. Woodlands and natural stream banks that once purified fresh water flowing to the bay have fallen to new and old construction.

Information taken partly from: "Barnegat Bay Under Stress," published in the Asbury Park Press.