Hamilton Receives Environmental Grant to Help Certify ‘Vernal Pools’ Across Community
Hamilton Township, working with its volunteer Environmental Advisory Commission, has received a grant to help certify ‘vernal pool’ basins across the community.
A ‘vernal pool’ is a term to describe a body of water that forms in confined basin without a permanently flowing outlet. These pools typically form following the melting of winter snow or during spring rains and maintain water (in the appearance of a pond) for at least two continuous months between March and September, but disappear or dry during the rest of the year.
‘Vernal pools’ are home to reptile and amphibian species, although free of fish populations, and also have the potential to assist in flood mitigation as they act as temporary storage for storm water runoff.
Hamilton Township received the $2,500 grant from the New Jersey Association of Environmental Commissions (ANJEC), which it must match with funding to identify, map and eventually certify vernal pools within the township. Approximately 80 ‘vernal pools’ exist in the community, with a concentration of vernal pools in the center of the Township, in wetlands surrounding Interstate 295, areas adjacent to Pond Run, as well as southeastern, agricultural areas of Hamilton. However, of the approximately 80 vernal pools, only one is “certified” by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). An environmental consultant will make a presentation about the project at the October 11th Hamilton Township Planning Board meeting.
The project proposes initiating surveys this fall to document that the pools are dry for part of the year and detect the existence reptiles and amphibians (as the fall is an ideal time to do so), so that the sites can be re-visited in the Spring to document the additional criteria necessary to secure NJDEP certification.
Any development application that impacts wetlands must be submitted to the NJDEP for review and for the issuing of permits to mitigate the impacts. However, during the review the NJDEP may discover, certify and eventually protect a number of vernal habitats. In other instances, reviews may take place when the ‘vernal pools’ are dry, and this, go undetected by the NJDEP. The NJDEP currently cross-references land use permit applications with maps of certified ‘vernal pools’, but cannot protect pools that have not been previously certified.
“Here in Hamilton, I believe we have maintained a good balance between protecting our environment and continuing to expand economic opportunities; and by using this grant to certify ‘vernal pools’ in our community, I believe that we will improve our commitment to good, storm water management while ensuring that reasonable future development will be cognizant of existing ‘vernal pools’ to help projects avoid needless delays, redesign costs or unintended flooding impacts,” explains Hamilton Township Mayor John Bencivengo.