On appeal from the final decision of the Board of Public Utilities.
Bischoff, Petrella and Brody.
The dispute here involves the question of the jurisdiction of the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) and its authority with respect to the laying of a water transmission pipeline by Hackensack Water Company (Water Company) through the Village of Ridgewood (Ridgewood), where it is not franchised, in connection with the completion of a water diversion project known as "Wanaque South."*fn1 We affirm the BPU's finding that it had jurisdiction to override Ridgewood's denial of consent to lay pipes. We hold that the BPU's refusal to reopen the question of the necessity of the project was not a denial of due process to Ridgewood.
This project is encompassed in an agreement between the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission (North Jersey) and Water Company which arose from proceedings before the New Jersey State Water Policy and Supply Council (Council) from November 1973 into 1978.*fn2
In 1973 North Jersey, a governmental entity, applied for approval to increase its diversion rights from the Ramapo River, increase its withdrawal limits from the Wanaque Reservoir and construct a reservoir on the Wanaque River. Id. at 178. Water Company, the Passaic Valley Water Commission, the City of Paterson and others objected to the project on various grounds. A compromise was worked out between North Jersey and Water Company which resulted in the filing of individual amended applications constituting a joint proposal. Hearings before the Council began on September 8, 1975. By letter dated February 20, 1976 Water Company sent Ridgewood a letter indicating that it was "probable that the main [for the project] would be routed through a portion of the Village of Ridgewood." Although the mayor of Ridgewood acknowledged receipt of the letter, Ridgewood did not participate in the balance of the hearing on the Wanaque project before the Council. The hearings continued for a total of 52 days and terminated April 10, 1978.
After approval by both the Council and the Department of Environmental Protection, and after the agreement with North Jersey, the Water Company applied for Ridgewood's consent to lay water transmission pipeline under the public streets of the municipality as part of its portion of the project. Ridgewood denied such consent on March 9, 1982.
Subsequent to Ridgewood's denial of consent to permit the Water Company to lay its transmission pipeline beneath Ridgewood's roads and streets, the Water Company filed a petition of appeal with the BPU on June 15, 1982 pursuant to N.J.S.A. 48:19-17. The matter was heard by a single commissioner of the BPU, see N.J.S.A. 52:14F-8(b), who ruled that there would be no testimony or argument taken regarding the need for the project because that had previously been established on both the administrative and judicial levels. The BPU denied a stay. Ridgewood withdrew from the proceedings and sought relief in the Appellate Division while the hearing proceeded. Its motions
for leave to appeal the ruling and for a stay were denied by this court and the Supreme Court.
Hearings before the BPU continued for 10 days after which a commissioner conducted a personal inspection of the proposed pipeline route as well as the various alternative routes. By order dated May 19, 1983, the BPU determined that it had jurisdiction under N.J.S.A. 48:19-17. The BPU concluded that the Water Company had established that the proposed pipeline route through Ridgewood was reasonably necessary for the service of the public and granted the Water Company relief on its appeal. Based on the evidence presented the BPU further concluded that the route through Ridgewood was the most reasonable selection among the alternative routes presented. The order incorporated six specific guidelines to be followed by the Water Company in installation of the transmission pipeline for the protection of Ridgewood.
Ridgewood appealed and applied for a stay. That application was denied. Construction commenced during the pendency of this appeal. We were advised at oral argument that this work is substantially completed. A limited remand to the BPU had been granted pending this appeal with respect to disclosed rock conditions which required blasting in Ridgewood in order to excavate expeditiously for the water transmission pipeline. Subsequent applications for stays of the blasting were ultimately denied.
On this appeal Ridgewood argues that the BPU did not have jurisdiction or authority to consent to the laying of the pipeline through Ridgewood and that its refusal to permit testimony proffered by Ridgewood on the necessity of the Wanaque project constituted a denial of due process of law. The issue of the reasonableness ...