The Raritan River Watershed Basin in New Jersey continues to undergo a renaissance in several different applications.
The advent to drive the effort all began in early 2009 when a group of concerned environmentalists joined staff from Rutgers University to form the Raritan River Collaborative—an effort intended to craft an action agenda that meets the goals of the U.S. Clean Water Act. It all transpired with the intent of restoring and preserving New Jersey’s Raritan River and its tributaries: This includes the Raritan Bay for a future that sustains its resources, its residents and its economy.
The collaborative continues to attract new partners, including organizations and businesses concerned about the future of the Raritan River, and the mission to preserve and enhance these resources. Citizens in the region are generally unaware of the value of these resources; their connection with the Raritan River end at the kitchen tap or in their bathrooms. Their connection to the river itself is obscured by the very infrastructure that provides the clean, safe drinking water and the wastewater treatment generated by homes every day.
So what's the objective? Stakeholders state that it's to “reconnect people with the river; to get out on the river and celebrate the resource.” The action agenda of the Collaborative is dedicated to the over one million residents of the Raritan River Watershed Basin, and what the Collaborative calls enabling a “reunion with their river.”
Historically, there had been significant presence of industry on the edge of the Raritan River, and from developments that occurred last week it appears more river corridor revival is potentially on the way: This transpired with the announced construction of an electrical generating plant on brownfield property.
Township officials in mid-July announced an agreement with Competitive Power Ventures to build a 700-mega-watt Woodbridge Power Center at the EPEC Polymers site in municipality’s Keasbey section. In a local news report, Mayor John McCormac called the plant “another milestone in the ongoing project to clean up and restore the Brownfields Development Area along the Raritan River waterfront.”
Bringing a plant to the 27-acre site will provide 500 construction jobs and more than 25 permanent jobs, the mayor said. He estimated Woodbridge will reap millions in property tax dollars.
Last year the state Board of Public Utilities approved subsidies to build this plant, as well as two others in Old Bridge Township and Newark’s Ironbound section. Under the subsidies, Competitive Power Venture will receive $30 million in 2015 and 2016 with funds collected from ratepayers.
BPU head Robert Hanna has said the new generators will lower the price of electricity in New Jersey through lower operating costs and the reduced congestion on the power grid, according to the newspaper report.
The New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club has criticized the subsidies, which the state Legislature passed and Gov. Chris Christie signed into law. The thinking is that the capitalization comes at the same time that the Governor “is undercutting our clean-energy programs and diverting clean energy funds to close budget gaps," according to a Sierra Club statement.
There are about 10,000 brownfields in New Jersey by state estimates, and just a handful pass the rigorous approval process to gain designation as a development area, officials have said.