Most of the surface water of the New Jersey Highlands eventually flows into New York Harbor via the Passaic or Raritan rivers. However, six Highlands rivers flow into the Delaware River. One, the Lopatcong Creek, and its watershed, which is shared by five Warren County municipalities, is the focus of an exciting expansion of our advocacy work. Philadelphia’s William Penn Foundation (WPF), has made a major financial commitment to improving water quality in the Delaware River. WPF is funding environmental and conservation projects throughout the Delaware Basin. Nine organizations working in the Highlands, including the NJ Highlands Coalition, have projects funded under the WPF initiative. In the Lopatcong Creek watershed we are joined by New Jersey Audubon and North Jersey Resource Conservation & Development (NJRC&D) in launching WPF-funded projects.

Through our program, the Lopatcong Creek Initiative, we aim to educate area residents, businesses, farmers, students, municipal officials, service organizations, recreational, and other groups about the inherent connections each have with the Lopatcong Creek. Through community engagement and education, our goal is to improve trout habitat as a measure of improved water quality.

We want to instill an understanding of the impacts that individuals have on the health and well being of the river; if we succeed, the community will in turn develop an appreciation of how the health and wellbeing of the river is directly linked to their own.

We will provide information to the community on how they can improve the river’s ecological health and increase opportunities for recreational access to the river. A better informed community is far more likely to act responsibly and make better choices where their actions might impact the river.

Despite being revered by area fisherman, the river is largely unnoticed by the greater community. We will increase the public’s awareness of the river with programs developed by the Musconetcong Watershed Association that have a track record of success in nearby communities.

Our WPF-funded partners share in our goals: NJRC&D aims to produce a comprehensive Watershed Restoration and Protection Plan. They have also designed and proposed a project to separate the Lopatcong Creek from the path of the Morris Canal in Greenwich Township, where the river and canal had merged after the canal was decommissioned in 1924, and to re-establish its natural floodplain.

NJ Audubon is preparing a project of riparian restoration to stabilize eroded stream banks and to cool the water with the shade of native trees. Their focus will be on the farming community with whom they hope to implement a program of Riparian Corridor Best Management Practices.

The Creek is often referred to as the hidden jewel of Lopatcong. It is renowned by those who are acquainted with it. Yet it has been overlooked by the communities through which the river flows. We hope to help generate the attention it deserves by promoting the benefits of river-friendly community living and farming throughout the region.