On January 5, 2011, Governor Christie signed into law a bill (Assembly Bill A-2501) which amends the Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Act, N.J.S.A. 4:24-39 et. seq. (the “Act”). The Act, designed to control and limit soil erosion, authorizes the State Soil Conservation Committee to establish standards for the control of soil erosion and sedimentation. One example of the soil management requirements resulting from the Act is the use of silt fences at construction sites.
According to Governor Christie’s press release announcing his signing into law Assembly Bill A-2501, the new amendment “updates statewide soil erosion and sediment control standards so that soils can properly absorb and control stormwater runoff. This will help address problems at many construction sites, where soils get compacted to such a degree that water simply runs off into our waterways, carrying pollutants and nutrients as they go.”
The following specific changes to the Act are made in the bill:
- A developer’s plan for controlling soil erosion and sedimentation will now be required to include “soil restoration measures,” in accordance with the standards to be established by the Soil Conservation Committee. Under the old rules, soil erosion and sediment control plans only required measures to control soil erosion during the project. The new law requires a plan to restore the soil conditions at the site once the project is completed.
- The new law defines “soil restoration measures” to include “those measures taken to ensure, to the maximum extent possible, cost-effective restoration of the optimal physical, chemical, and biological functions for specific soil types and the intended land use.” What is “cost-effective” and what those optimal functions are will likely be the source of some debate as the new requirements are implemented.
- The definition of “disturbance” in the Act is amended to include the “compaction of soil which degrades soil so as to make it less conducive to vegetative stabilization.” The terms “vegetative stabilization” is not defined, leading to potential issues in the implementation of the new requirements.
- The Soil Conservation Committee is tasked with modifying the existing soil erosion and sediment control standards to include standards for “soil restoration measures.”
Developers will need to keep up-to-date on these rule changes as they proceed with and plan their development projects to ensure compliance with the Act.