Stockton may form environmental panel

The commission would help the borough address new state regulations regarding nonpoint source pollution and aid in the development of a stormwater management plan.

By: Linda Seida
   STOCKTON — The Borough Council voted unanimously Jan. 26 to introduce an ordinance that would establish an environmental commission.
   The formation of such a commission will help the borough address new state regulations governing nonpoint source pollution. It also will aid in the development of a stormwater management plan, according to Mayor Gregg Rackin.
   The ordinance is expected to pass during the next agenda meeting, which is scheduled for Feb. 25.
   An environmental commission is an advisory body, but it has legal status as an official arm of local government, according to the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions.
   "We’re moving ahead in forming it because it is good sense," said Mayor Rackin. "It’s the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing to do and the responsible thing to do."
   The proposed commission, he added, will be put to "the focused task not only of state and federal requirements, but sharing knowledge on all levels and setting an example of ways to maintain high standards of environmental integrity and getting more involved in the state Association of Environmental Commissions."
   The commission must number between five and seven members, who will be appointed by the mayor. All members must reside within the borough, and at least one must be a member of the Planning Board. Terms of office will vary from one, two and three years.
   If the ordinance creating a new commission passes next month, Mayor Rackin said last week he would appoint Bill Lowry as chairman. Mr. Lowry would serve a three-year term. Other appointments would be made in consultation with the commission’s chairman.
   Mr. Lowry is a member of the Planning Board. He is a research scientist employed by the New Jersey De- partment of Environmental Protection in the office of Pollution Prevention and Right to Know.
   Mr. Lowry described Stockton as a "very wet town."
   The borough sits on the Delaware River and along the Delaware and Raritan Canal. In addition, several proposed C-1 waterways, or waterways with the highest level of protection, also are located there, Mr. Lowry said.
   "All these dump into the D&R Canal, which serves as a drinking source," he said. "We’re the first town on the canal, so to speak. Everything we do impacts everyone downstream. We hope to set an example and be a model town, to do the right thing."
   Mayor Rackin said, "Though small, Stockton plays a big part in the health of the river and the Delaware Canal. One million New Jersey residents use that canal for drinking water."
   He added, "There are a lot of resources out there for Stockton to manage environmental issues. It’s a win-win situation."
   Those resources are financial as well as in the area of knowledge and expertise at state, federal and local levels that may be called upon, he said.
   "We are stewards of our environment, and we need to be cognizant of that," Mayor Rackin said. "By forming an environmental commission, we are becoming informed. New Jersey is the last of the 50 states to implement federal stormwater management regulations. New Jersey’s are the most stringent."
   The first job to be tackled by the new commission is an inventory of the borough’s environmental, natural and historic resources, according to Mayor Rackin.
   If the commission is established next month, Mr. Lowry said he would propose four appointments: state Deputy Attorney General Tom Hunt, Planning Board member Norm Torkelson, ANJEC employee Julie Hadjusek and grant writer Danielle Donkersloot.