What is the Wallkill River Watershed Management Group?

In 1994, the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders (New Jersey) designated the Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority (SCMUA) as the lead agency to develop a Wallkill River Watershed Management Plan. As a result, in March 2000, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) awarded a contract to the SCMUA to facilitate the Wallkill River Watershed Management Project (WRWMP) as part of the New Jersey Watershed Management Program. The project's goal was to bring together major stakeholders including Federal, State, County, and municipal officials, farmers, lake communities, the educational community, and interested watershed residents to work in partnership to study water quality issues and develop strategies, plans and initiatives to ensure the restoration, maintenance and enhancement of the waterways within the Watershed. Through this process, unique stakeholder partnerships were established and a strong sense of watershed stewardship was generated. Most importantly, an organizational entity referred to as the Wallkill River Watershed Management Group (WRWMG) evolved and has taken on the role of "Watershed Liaison" for all of Sussex County.

For the past fifteen years, the WRWMG has operated under the administrative auspices of the SCMUA and utilized 319(h) non-point source pollution control grants allocated by the NJDEP to restore, enhance, and protect the surface waters of the watersheds and communities within Sussex County, New Jersey. Whether it be through conducting water quality monitoring, organizing volunteers to assist with a stream planting project, providing educational presentations to community members, assisting local farmers with conservation activities, or even helping a homeowner better understand the stream conditions on his property, the WRWMG continually strives to create a more informed citizenry, foster a greater sense of environmental awareness and stewardship, and physically implement watershed restoration initiatives to help ensure the long-term sustainability of Sussex County’s natural resources for future generations.

The WRWMG is composed of 3 employees, Nathaniel Sajdak (Watershed Director), Eric VanBenschoten (Agricultural Outreach Specialist / Watershed Technician), and Kristine Rogers (Watershed Education and Outreach Specialist) responsible for the day to day tasks of the organization. The success of this team is directly attributed to the intimate knowledge of the watersheds of Sussex County, of which all members have lived and worked in for many years, coupled with unique and complementary individual skill sets acquired from a broad spectrum of disciplines, previous occupations, a vast network of watershed partners, and ultimately lessons learned from getting their hands and feet wet out in the rivers and streams of the watershed.