• What is the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act?

    The Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act is a law signed in August 2004 that will preserve open space and protect the state's greatest diversity of natural resources including the precious water resources that supply drinking water to more than half of New Jersey's families. The Highlands Act documents the geographical boundary of the Highlands Region and establishes the Highlands Preservation Area and the Highlands Planning Area. It required the department to establish regulations in the Highlands Preservation Area to create a Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council and to develop a regional master plan for the entire Highlands Region.

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  • Why is protecting the Highlands Region important?

    The Highlands Region is a vital source of drinking water for more than half of New Jersey’s families, yielding approximately 379 million gallons of water daily. In addition to water resources, the Highlands Region contains exceptional natural resources such as contiguous forest lands, wetlands, pristine watersheds and plant and wildlife species habitats. The region contains many sites of historic significance and provides abundant recreational opportunities. Approximately 110,000 acres of agricultural lands are in active production in the Highlands region.

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  • How did this legislation come about?

    On September 19, 2003, the Highlands Task Force was created through Executive Order. The Governor charged the Task Force to provide him recommendations within six months on how best to advance conservation efforts, smart growth, regional planning, and water resource protections in the region. The task force called for the identification of a Preservation Area in the Highlands to protect a core area of the most sensitive land, which the Legislature should then officially designate by statute.

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  • Does the Smart Growth law (S1368) affect the Highlands Preservation Area?

    No, the Highlands Preservation Area is specifically exempted from the requirements of this law.

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  • What activities are regulated in the Highlands Preservation Area?

    All "major Highlands development," as defined by the Highlands Act, in the Preservation Area is regulated and will require DEP approval, unless otherwise exempted by the Act. Please visit the DEP Highlands pages for additional information.

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  • Does the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act have an impact on my property?

    To determine how the law affects your property, use the Highlands Interactive Map to first determine if the property is in the Highlands Preservation Area or Planning Area. 

    In the Preservation Area, the DEP’s Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act Rules (Rules), N.J.A.C. 7:38-1 et seq., establish the environmental standards and procedures by which the Department reviews any application pursuant to the Highlands Act.

    If your property is located within the Preservation Area and your proposed project meets the definition of “major Highlands development,” then your project may be regulated. Some activities and projects, however, may be exempt. Please visit the DEP Highlands pages for additional information.

    If your property is located within the Preservation Area and your proposed project does not meet the definition of major Highlands development, then your project is not subject to the DEP Highlands Rules.

    If your property is located within the Planning Area, then the DEP Highlands Rules do not apply to your project.

    In both the Preservation and Planning Areas, Highlands Plan Conformance Status is also a factor in determining how the Highlands Act affects property.

    Please contact the Highlands Council for additional assistance.

     

     

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