Understanding NJ’s MS4 Permit: A Guide for Local Representatives

Stormwater and its Impact on the Barnegat Bay Watershed

The issue of stormwater presents a significant risk to the Barnegat Bay watershed and threatens to impact critical aspects of regional culture related to recreation, the integrity of biological resources, and human interaction with the coastal environment. 

In December of 1999, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) released stormwater management rules in response to this growing issue. Such programs were developed as a response to the sweeping protections enacted by the Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972. The final stormwater protocol for NJ’s program was developed in 2004, which oversaw the general NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP)’s stormwater discharge permits. Under this system, communities are designated as either a Tier A or Tier B municipality, a Public Complex, or a Highway Agency. Tier A municipalities are the most densely populated and are located along the coast, and Tier B municipalities are generally rural and non-coastal. While Tier A communities are required to abide by stricter standards, both tiers submit materials regarding the development and implementation of their stormwater program to NJDEP. This program oversees all stormwater discharge from municipal separate storm sewers systems (MS4s) throughout the state. For more information on the origin of this program as well as related documents, please refer to NJDEP’s webpage

The Role of Representatives in Effective Stormwater Management

In its ongoing commitment to conservation, the state of New Jersey has effectively developed one of the most aggressive programs for environmental protection, requiring each and every municipality to play a role in stormwater management. As elected officials, you have the responsibility to represent the interests of New Jersey residents and the protection of the state’s natural environment. Thus, it is important to understand this complex yet critical program. Below, you will find abbreviated guidelines to facilitate your knowledge of the obligations and duties related to the NJ MS4 program. Additionally, Save Barnegat Bay has developed a web tool with more information, which can be found here or at the bottom of this page

Components of the MS4 Permit System

NJ municipalities are required to author, submit, and publish the following documents:

These materials must be submitted to the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and should be posted to municipalities’ websites. It is important to maintain a thorough and transparent record of these materials so that New Jersey can best protect its valuable coastal environments.

An Urgent Call to Action

As New Jersey continues to experience overdevelopment, there is a heightened risk for disruption of sensitive coastal areas as a result of improper stormwater management. We invite you to use this tool to explore regions’ levels of impairment throughout the Barnegat Bay watershed. Now more than ever, it is important to act in a meaningful and informed manner on the issue of stormwater discharge— the future of New Jersey’s pristine coastal resources depends on it.

Check out the stormwater storyboard below: