Byram adopts water use and conservation plan

Byram. Councilman Harvey Roseff said the model the Highlands Council used to develop the plan was just a series of guesses. But the other councilmembers said the plan presents easy, commonsense ways to conserve natural resources.

| 26 Oct 2021 | 06:27

The Byram Township Council has adopted a water use and conservation management plan.

The plan was adopted, 3-1, at the council’s Oct. 19 meeting. Councilman Harvey Roseff voted against the measure. Councilman Jack Gallagher was absent.

The planning board will now decide whether to adopt the plan as an element of the township’s master plan.

Engineer Tom Knutelsky of Harold Pellow and Associates reviewed the document with the council. He said the plan will help the township comply with the Highlands Regional Master Plan. It sets priorities for water use and informs the public about how to reduce water deficits in certain areas by about 18,000 to 20,000 gallons per day. These methods include low-flow showerheads and toilet fixtures, better irrigation system design, and stormwater basins with infiltration.

The implementation schedule is twice a year. After five years, Knutelsky said, water use areas will be complete recalculated. He said the stormwater management rules that the council adopted at the beginning of the year will help water infiltrate into the ground.

Roseff asked who verifies the model used to determine water deficits in Byram. Knutelsky said the model is through the Highlands Council, and that verifying the model is difficult.

Roseff said the model is a series of guesses. He said if the council accepts the 78-page study, and Byram has not mitigated the model predictions in five years, the study lays the groundwork for more restrictions.

Deputy Mayor Raymond Bonker said Byram is in the Highlands, like it or not, and that the Highlands Act decision was made 15 to 20 years ago. The document was required and paid for by the Highlands, with no water tax, he said.

He said he did not find the recommendations onerous: irrigation design through public education, low-flow showers and toilets through public education, a stormwater ordinance the council has already completed, and retrofitting detention basins.

Councilwoman Cris Franco said the report is a reminder to be considerate, good stewards of the land, and not be wasteful.

Mayor Alexander Rubenstein echoed some of the comments saying that the conformance plans are a “necessary evil, being in the Highlands, placed upon us.”

He said the four recommendations are about not wasting natural resources. He said he fully appreciated Roseff’s comments, but that the council can reasonably trust the commonsense recommendations.

Resident Jack Moran said the 2000 Census was used for the estimates in the models, and that Byram Township has lost population since than. He said the model’s calculations should be revisited after losing a couple hundred people using 100 gallons a day.

He said he too was concerned for the future because nothing is static, and rules can change. He recommended the council get feedback from local water companies, who could give a more accurate report of the domestic water supply. Another resident said it bothered him that the un-elected Highlands board controlled the destiny of the town.

Temporary water structure: Mayor Rubenstein said the planning board approved Suez Water company’s temporary structure at the water tower system for filtering out the harmful chemicals PFOA and PFOS.
Tomahawk Lake Water Park improvements: Mayor Rubenstein said the planning board approved the addition of water slides, ticket booth, and store, plus parking modifications and a new traffic control plan.
Sussex Branch Trail: Mayor Rubenstein said and his children hiked the trail with about seven to ten senior citizens, and the colors were magnificent.
Byram Township Historical Society: Mayor Rubenstein said he talked with members of the historical society about plans for the 225th anniversary of the township, in Feb. 2023. The society’s other plans include: complete an oral history project to catalog the memories of longtime residents, talk to the county historical society about how to remediate graves collapsing in Lockwood Cemetery, and discuss bringing students to the museum, who have not attended since 2018.
Elizabethtown Gas: Mayor Rubenstein said Elizabethtown Gas is installing natural gas in the northern end of town, at Lake Mohawk. The next phase, he said, is to build 6,100 feet of gas main over the next year or two. The company will send out survey cards to determine where to build next.
Hudson Farm Charity Hike: Mayor Rubenstein said there were 1,300 to 1,500 hikers at the fundraiser to benefit emergency services and non-profits.
Cannabis webinar: Councilwoman Franco said she attended a cannabis webinar about opening cannabis dispensaries.
Sussex County Heritage Day: Councilman Roseff said the schoolhouse was opened for Heritage Day, which attracted children, playing ball, who really enjoyed their visit.
Referendum on municipal building: Officials and residents discussed a potential referendum on the proposed new municipal building. Mayor Rubenstein said the council cannot bypass the petition process.
Byram Animal Rescue Kindness Squad (BARKS): Mayor Rubenstein said the council will hold a special meeting with BARKS members “to see if something can be done” to save the shelter. In the past, the location of BARKS has been in question.
New police officers: Two new police officers, Ptl. Christopher Spaldo and Ptl. Derek Kuncken, were sworn in.