History of the Manasquan River Watershed Association

Monmouth–Ocean Alliance to Enhance the Manasquan River (1993–1998)

In March 1992, NJDEPE (as NJDEP was known then) published a routine evaluation document entitled, Shellfish Growing Area 6: Manasquan River (1986-1989). Its conclusion that water quality consistently exceeded fecal coliform criteria supported the downgrading of shellfish harvesting in the estuary from special restricted to prohibited. The report went on to suggest that there was "...a causal relationship between marina/boating activities and the consistently elevated coliform levels...."

Lester Jargowsky, the Monmouth County Public Health Coordinator, convened the first meeting of the Monmouth–Ocean Alliance on January 20, 1993. The primary objective of the Alliance was to assemble the needed planning tools, needs assessment, facility development plan, and education and enforcement plan to petition the USEPA to designate the Manasquan River as a "No Discharge Zone" pursuant to the Clean Water Act. The Alliance continued to meet for several years. It worked to accelerate the construction of pumpout facilities at local marinas and, when enough facilities were in place, petioned NJDEP to ask EPA for designation of the entire Manasquan River Estuary as a "no discharge zone". That request was received by EPA on October 10, 1997.

The Manasquan River Estuary was declared a No Discharge Zone by USEPA on May 26, 1998, and it became official when the announcement was published in the June 5, 1998 Federal Register.

Manasquan Valley Regional Environmental Planning Council (1993/94–c.2000)

In December 1992, the Monmouth County Planning Board adopted a watershed approach, and established nine resource-based environmental planning regions based on watersheds and groups of watersheds (Eco Logic Vol. 1, No. 1). The Manasquan Valley Region was one of these regions. The Manasquan Valley Regional Environmental Planning Council was made up of local environmental commissioners and planning board members, as well as key stakeholders such as NJWSA. It was meeting on a regular basis by 1994.

The Monmouth County Planning Board formally recognized the MVREPC as the official forum for discussion of regional environmental planning issues, on August 8, 1994 (Eco Logic Vol. 2, No. 4). The group met several times a year for many years.

Manasquan Watershed Management Group (1998–2000)

Section 309 of the federal Coastal Zone Management Act is intended to advance federal coastal zone management goals pertaining to sustainable coastal communities and sustainable coastal ecosystems. In 1997, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) responded to Section 309 by establishing a draft Coastal Enhancement Strategy that focused on sustainable watershed management. When New Jersey's Coastal Zone Management program recognized the in-place organizations present in the Manasquan River watershed, NJDEP offered to make NOAA grant money available for a watershed-based management project.

What became the Manasquan Watershed Management Group initially met in January of 1998 to hear about this unusual opportunity. MWMG formally organized in mid-April 1998, and Monmouth County agreed to manage the planning process. Three years of funding was provided to develop a sustainable watershed management program that addressed land-based impacts to water quality and resources like coastal wetlands and fishery resources while coordinating the activities of local government, state and federal agencies, and the coastal community.

The substantial effort that this project engendered subsumed most of the functions of the Monmouth–Ocean Alliance and the Manasquan Valley council, and those groups were essentially absorbed into the much more comprehensive MWMG.

MWMG published many key resource reports on the history and environmental state of the Manasquan River system and its estuary. A Manasquan River Watershed Management Plan was published in March 2000.

Manasquan River Watershed Association (2000–2010)

After the watershed management plan was published, and the 3-year funding from NOAA for the MWMG activities had ended, there was still interest in continuing the forum that had run in various forms since the early 1990s. Many continued to meet on an informal basis with the goal of implementing the watershed management plan. Eventually we decided that the group could function more effectively as a formal organization, and documents were filed to incorporate the Manasquan River Watershed Association. MRWA became a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation on September 19, 2002.

MRWA was quite an effective organization. For an outfit that was run almost completely on volunteer time, and had no dedicated funding source, it was tremendously successful. We worked over 10 years of informal and corporate life, to improve public awareness, stewardship, and environmental quality, in an environmental region spanning two counties and 13 municipalities. Anyone would be hard pressed to find a similar organization that did as much as we did. Our accomplishments speak for themselves.

Alas, as with many organizations, it ran its course. By the late 2000's we were far removed from the watershed focus of the Gov. Whitman days. Area 12 is a shell. Monmouth County has given up on its Regional Environmental Planning Councils. Many key people from the 1990's and early 2000's had moved to other positions, retired from government, or had other interests that demanded their time. Attendance at MRWA meetings had dwindled and we were left with a small core of dedicated people. When the MRWA president and its executive director each moved out of the area, it was time to close up the shop. The MRWA non-profit corporation formally dissolved in April 2010, and its assets were transferred to the Friends of Parks to be spent on Monmouth County Park System projects in the Manasquan River watershed.

Area 12

When Christie Whitman was governor of N.J. the state DEP had a strong watershed focus in its planning. DEP divided the state into twenty Watershed Management Areas. The Manasquan River system was placed into Area 12. The WMAs were loosely organized around larger watersheds, however similarity of subwatersheds seems to be a more coherent way of describing what could otherwise seem to be an arbitrary WMA geography. Other Area 12 streams drain to Sandy Hook Bay, but the context for the associated streams is close enough that it fails to not make sense.

So Area 12 was a formal establishment for watershed issues, with ties to DEP, and the Manasquan system was one of several systems within it. Area 12 had an advisory council which met regularly starting in November 1999 (Eco Logic Vol. 9, No. 1), and some people associated with MRWA were associated with Area 12 as well. After funding and working with MWMG/MRWA to produce the Assessment of the Manasquan River report (June 2002), MRWA and WMA 12 had no further formal joint projects.

Area 12 is part of the full MRWA story, and it should not be ignored because it was a contemporary watershed-oriented body with an interest in the same geographic area. But it was a top-down creation of DEP, it is not part of MRWA's lineage, and we really had very little organization-to-organization interaction.

The following public documents provide additional information, and are the sources for the plagiarism that occurred above.

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