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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

New Jersey

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Navesink River Shellfish Beds Upgraded



On January 1, 1997, the Navesink River was approved for unrestricted shellfish harvesting for the first time in 25 years. Water quality in the Navesink River has improved significantly as a result of a major interagency initiative involving federal, state, and county governments, private institutions (representing the environment, health, and agriculture), and the general public. The Navesink flows through Monmouth County, New Jersey, near the Atlantic coast.

Success through partnership

The primary goal of this initiative, which has been underway for several years in the Navesink River watershed, is to reduce nonpoint sources of pollution sufficiently to reopen the river to unrestricted shellfish harvesting. Harvesting in the Navesink has been restricted since 1971.

A comprehensive, coordinated management plan was implemented in 1987 to reduce bacterial loadings to the estuary and restore recreational and commercial shellfish harvesting. At that time, a Memorandum Of Understanding was signed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, U.S. EPA, and the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service. It was also endorsed by 12 county, municipal, academic, and private organizations. The agreement formalized each one's commitment to the Navesink River Watershed Management Program and its goals. The water quality improvements in the Navesink are a direct result of successful nonpoint source pollution controls implemented by these partnerships over many years.


A total of nearly 4,800 acres were upgraded in the shellfish reclassification as a result of improvement in overall water quality, bringing the total harvesting acreage to over 580,000.

In the 1980s, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Environment Planning Program initiated the Navesink nonpoint source study, which included intensive watershed/land-use analysis, inventory and compliance assessment of point source permits, evaluation of potential nonpoint sources and monitoring of the estuary and its tributaries. Sources of contamination were subsequently attributed to a combination of stormwater runoff associated with residential development, agricultural waste, and marina/boat associated pollutants.

Over the last 10 years the NJDEP (Land Use Regulation, Shellfisheries and Marine Water Classification and Analysis programs) successfully carried out a joint project review strategy to "red-flag" coastal development applications (Coastal Area Facilities Review Act and Waterfront Development permits) for individual docks, marinas, and multiunit development projects in the Navesink watershed. Proposed projects considered for approval were scrutinized to assure that nonpoint source best management practices (BMPs) were incorporated in the design plan. The NJDEP also designated the Navesink a "Special Water Area" in the Rules on Coastal Zone Management (N.J.A.C. 7:7E-3.1), which provides an additional measure of protection.

Innovative measures

Many innovative measures were implemented to control nonpoint source pollution in the Navesink watershed:

  • Construction of a manure composting facility with federal and county funds to reduce animal waste runoff. Manure is removed from the waste stream through composting.
  • Comprehensive stormwater controls as part of coastal permits. Project applications in the coastal zone portion of the Navesink watershed were not approved for permits unless adequate stormwater management controls were part of the plan.
  • Putting in place berms and concrete pads to redirect manure and contaminated runoff away from tributaries that drain to the Navesink.
  • Initiation of a citizen monitoring program.
  • Formation of the Navesink Municipalities Association and the Navesink Environmental League, which meet monthly to represent local government and citizen stakeholder interests in the watershed.
  • State and federal funding for public education on ways to reduce nonpoint source pollution in the watershed, including hiring a public outreach coordinator; completing a 30-minute film documentary, Navesink the Restoration of a River, that aired periodically on PBS television; a quarterly newsletter, Navesink News; and a Navesink watershed worldwide Web page on the Internet.
  • State funding for a free public boat pumpout facility, which led the way to other pumpout facilities and a pending application to EPA for a "No Discharge Zone" in the Navesink River.
  • Development of subwatershed approach to environmental planning, monitoring, and implementation of BMPs.

There was an upgrade in classification for 623 acres of waters east of the Oceanic Bridge that allowed shellfish to be harvested every year from November through April without need for purification. A total of nearly 4,800 acres were upgraded in the shellfish reclassification as a result of improvement in overall water quality, bringing the total harvesting acreage to over 580,000.


CONTACT: Bob Scro
Office of Environmental Planning New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
(609) 633-2003

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