By Samuel Arnowitz
A new pipeline for the Highlands! It seems as though despite many protests from many groups and organizations, the natural gas pipeline that is planned to be routed through the New Jersey Highlands has jumped another hurdle, that hurdle being the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council. That’s right, the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council has “okayed” the project to go forward in the state of New Jersey even though this proposed pipeline, that will be 7.6 miles long, will be cutting through several New Jersey state parks that are the heart of the New Jersey Highlands and could endanger other environmentally sensitive sites.
The plan, according to Governor Christie’s administration, is that the new pipeline will take advantage of Pennsylvania and New York’s natural gas deposits in the Marcellus Shale, thus lowering the cost here in New Jersey. Again, just a short sighted solution for a much bigger problem.
This pipeline is set to run through thousands of acres of woodlands that contain rivers and lakes that provide drinking water for about half of New Jersey’s residents. This is not only a problem due to the nature of the construction of the pipeline itself but also due to the physical environment of the Highlands; meaning the mountains that the pipeline will cross will certainly erode, causing sediments to wash into water ways.
As a resident of the Highlands and an avid hiker, I experienced the installation of the most recent pipeline first hand. The trail head of a trail that I run most frequently during the summer is located less than a half mile down the street and right on the pipeline. I witnessed the surveying, the deforestation, the blasting, the laying of pipe, and the “clean-up” in what I considered to be my back yard. It is only now that crews have come back to clean up our community lake and replant trees. For over a year, I have seen the problems that this erosion to the land can cause.
The pipeline runs up and down the mountains from one ridge to another; in-between these ridges are rivers and lakes that all feed and are water ways for the Highlands reservoirs. The effects of the erosion could clearly be seen, the rich, clear, clean water had become thick and muddy almost instantly.