Archive for August, 2009

More Crazy Development in Parks – Washington Crossing State Park

August 21st, 2009 No comments
Pond at Washington Crossing State Park is unhealthy and in need of restoration

Pond at Washington Crossing State Park is unhealthy and in need of restoration

Last week, I wrote about destruction of Ken Lockwood Gorge by DEP (here) – so, my head again exploded to read about another mad development scheme yesterday.

Repeating that flawed land management policy, this time, DEP is planning on destroying forested portions of historic Washington Crossing State Park

Apparently, DEP wants to build a “30 bed cabin”  in “a deeply forrested” portion of the Park! And this is claimed to be a better alternative to the one vehemently opposed by neighbors!

The park is frequented by lots of day hikers.

The park is frequented by lots of day hikers.

There are plenty of alternatives and far better things to do with DEP money, especially in these times of austere budgets and a huge backlog in maintenance across the state park system.

At Washington Crossing, trails are in very bad shape.

Stream banks are eroding and badly in need of restoration.

A small pond is sedimented and eutrophic. Picnic areas need lots of work.

Historic structures are neglected.

structures are collapsing

structures are collapsing

The theater is falling apart and could use rehab work as well.



pinnic areas need lots of work

pinnic areas need lots of work

Habitat and forestry work has been neglected for years.



stream backs are eroding due to development surrounding park. More in park development will make current problems worse.

stream backs are eroding due to development surrounding park. More in park development will make current problems worse.



What the hell is going on in DEP?

Are the engineer lunatics running the show?

They need some adult supervision.

Daggett Ethics Agenda of Recent Vintage

August 20th, 2009 No comments

IMG_1046At a Trenton State House news conference today, Independent Chris Daggett released his ethics reform agenda.

As I reported previously, Chris Daggett served as Chairman of the DEP “Permit Efficiency Review Task Force” – (read the Daggett’s Report to DEP here) (see a summary of troubling Task Force Report findings and recommendations below).

Daggett was appointed to that position by the Administrative  Order issued by then DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson. 

Daggett’s DEP Task Force had ethical problems from the outset. Several of its members represented clients that had ongoing regulatory issues or projects seeking approvals before the DEP, including Daggett himself.

This, at best, created the appearance of a conflict of interest, or actual conflicts.

State ethics laws prohibit creation of even an appearance of impropriety, as well as an actual conflict of interest:

(a) In our representative form of government, it is essential that the conduct of public officials and employees shall hold the respect and confidence of the people. Public officials must, therefore, avoid conduct which is in violation of their public trust or which creates a justifiable impression among the public that such trust is being violated (NJSA 52:13D-12)

(3) No State officer or employee or special State officer or employee should use or attempt to use his official position to secure unwarranted privileges or advantages for himself or others.

(7) No State officer or employee or special State officer or employee should knowingly act in any way that might reasonably be expected to create an impression or suspicion among the public having knowledge of his acts that he may be engaged in conduct violative of his trust as a State officer or employee or special State officer or employee

To remedy these problems, DEP Commisisoner Jackson was asked to make the Task Force deliberations tranparent and to restrict conflicts of interest – both she and Daggett failed to do so –

NEW JERSEY TO CONSULT INDUSTRY ON ECO-REWRITES IN SECRET – “Efficiency” Task Force Members Not Barred from Self-Dealing with DEP


An industry-dominated task force to recommend an overhaul of state anti-pollution permits and policies will work in secret, according to an e-mail from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Lisa Jackson to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Commissioner Jackson also rebuffed PEER recommendations that materials submitted to the task force are made a public record and that task force members be barred from lobbying DEP for their clients.

On March 25, 2008, New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe wrote Jackson asking that task force sessions be open to the public, materials submitted to the task force be made publicly available and that task force members “be precluded from having any contracts, pending regulatory approvals, or financial relationships with the Department” during the 120-day life of the task force.

In a return e-mail on the evening of April 2, 2008, Commissioner Jackson denied all of PEER’s requests. Jackson stated:

“Public input can only occur once the Task Force has completed its analysis and compiled the group’s thoughts and recommendations. At that time, I will determine how to most effectively seek and obtain input from the public”; and

“I do not consider it necessary or reasonable to restrict members of the Task Force or their respective employers from having other business before the Department.

See this link for supporting documents, including the Jackson email reply to PEER request.

BTW, a very reliable source has told me that Chris Daggett owned contaminated property and has huge economic stakes in DEP brownfields, permitting, and toxic site cleanup issues he presided over and made recommendations on as Task Force Chair. I was also told, but have not confirmed, that Daggettt owned the parcel of contaminated Jersey City land that was specifically the land mentioned in the criminal complaint of Assemblyman Harvey. Harvey was bribed to pressure DEP to issue approval of cleanup plants to allow construction of a day care center and public housing on highly toxic chromium waste site in Jersey City.

Summary if Task Force Report

Independent Chris Dagett was just endorsed for Governor by the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club. So, in an effort to educate voters, we thought we’d look at his most recent environmental accomplishment as Chairman of the DEP “Permit Efficiency Review Task Force” established by former DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson. Readers can find all the relevant original documents at these links

1. Public Announcement by DEP Commissioner Jackson [link]

2. Task Force Final Report [link]

3. DEP Implementation plan [link]

Report Lowlights:

1. On “doing less with less”

“In this time of fiscal crisis, the challenge, before the DEP is to develop different approaches to managing, to consider doing less with less, recognizing that this must be done without compromising environmental protection or public health.”

2. On Privatization

In an output/performance-driven system, the DEP would focus on the efficient execution of inherently governmental functions and explore using outside assistance, advanced IT tools or both, to complete the straightforward tasks that are not necessary to be done by government. To accomplish this, a major change must occur in the way that scope and responsibility are allocated within the DEP. In short, if the DEP is ever going to reach a high level of efficiency and effectiveness, the goal for the DEP should be to determine which environmental services are essential and which can be eliminated; which can be consolidated and which cannot; which must be provided by government and which can be delivered by outside vendors or through advanced IT tools, or both.

3. On rewriting history to mask the real agenda of the Task Force –

The original composition of Task Force was established in Jackson’s Adminsitraive Order.

Later, the composition was expanded to include environmental, community and public interest representatives, but only AFTER strong public criticism of its failure to represent public interests (glad to provide that criticism to document the chronology):

The members of the Task Force included representatives of residential and commercial developers, environmental organizations, land use planning firms, nongovernment organizations, housing advocacy groups, business and industry, the environmental justice community, counties, municipalities, public utilities authorities, engineering firms, the EPA, the Governor’s office and environmental consulting firms. Three were former cabinet members: DEP, Transportation and Community Affairs. Exhibit 2 is a list of the members of the Task Force and their affiliations.

4. On ignoring the only pro-environment objectives, exposing them as green cover (notice the use of “shall and “may” and the limit in scope to “incentives” (aka subsidies) as opposed to “regulations” which apparently are taboo)):

 b. The report of the Task Force shall also provide recommendations for operational, policy and regulatory changes at the department to provide incentives for and to advance sustainable development projects that contribute to achieving statewide greenhouse gas limits, economic growth opportunities in urban areas and meaningful affordable housing and that, as a result of their location and design, have little or no impact on public health and safety, the environment or natural resources; and

c. As part of its deliberations, the Task Force may also identify possible statutory changes that would result in enhancing the DEP’s timely and efficient service or the DEP’s ability to provide incentives for sustainable development projects that contribute to achieving statewide greenhouse gas limits, economic growth opportunities in urban areas and meaningful affordable housing and that, as a result of their location and design, have little or no impact on public health and safety, the environment or natural resources.”

Where are these pro-environment recommendations in the Report? Not there.

5. On the use of Orwellian euphemism to mask a pro-business anti-environmental agenda:

 In short, the Commissioner formed the Task Force out of a concern that the current permitting process cannot keep up with demand. The Commissioner asked the Task Force to help her in making the permit process more timely, predictable, consistent and transparent to the regulated community [but not to the public?] and to do so at the lowest possible cost to taxpayers while enhancing New Jersey’s environment.” 

6. On confirming the fact that DEP rubber stamps most permits – only the really bad projects need “streamlining”

 Overall, 90 percent to 95 percent are approved, often with substantial changes as a result of DEP input, with the remainder being denied or withdrawn. The permit decisions are usually made within the statutory timeframe, which varies from program to program. The permitting system breaks down most frequently when there are multiple permits for a single project, when projects are large in size and when impacts to the environment are complex and potentially extensive.

7. On how the Big Boys in the Private sector know best – Task Force say DEP should emulate the large polluters who off-shored jobs and deindustrialized the US manufacturing base:

 Overall, there is no single silver bullet that can fix the various permitting problems of the DEP. Rather, what is needed is similar to the approach that enables certain manufacturing companies to stand out in their fields. The success of these companies is rooted in rigorous and unrelenting attention to all of the little details of the manufacturing process, or in the DEP’s case, the permitting process. The successful manufacturing companies have created a work culture with a bias toward action“ a performance-driven environment “ and have empowered its employees to perform.

8. On providing a rationale Commissioner Jackson relied on to privatize DEP science (i.e. Science Advisory Board) and abolish the Division of Science and Research – the “study group” was never formed, nor was the mistaken recommendation to “restore the stature of the Office” implemented (BTW, Science and Research was a Division at the time of this Report, a revealing error. The Division was downsized to an Office):

“In the course of Task Force deliberations, two issues arose which were outside the charge of the Administrative Order but which directly impact the efficiency of the DEP. The first is the quality of science and research that provides the underpinning of the policies, guidance, directives and regulations of the DEP. Through the first two decades of the DEP’s history, the Office of Science and Research was one of the most highly regarded programs in the country. However, during the past two decades, budget cuts and reorganizations have undercut the quality of the program. While the Office still does excellent work, the staff simply cannot keep up with the breadth and scope of DEP needs. Accordingly, the TaskForce recommends that the DEP convene a study group that examines this issue and addresses possible ways to restore the stature of the Officewith a particular focus on collaborative efforts with academic research institutions and outstanding practitioners to minimize or avoid significant budget and staff increases.”

Sierra Club Endorsement of Daggett – how did it happen and what does it mean?

August 18th, 2009 No comments


NJ Governor Jon Corzine

NJ Governor Jon Corzine

The Sierra Club’s endorsement of Independent Chris Daggett for Governor has caused a stir in political circles.

As with almost all hyped news, the corporate media coverage and political blogosphere are narrowly focused on the short term electoral implications, and are completely ignoring the policy debate, or asking how we got to this juncture and what it means for policy going forward.

I’d like to take a step back and try to foster a discussion about what this means for policy, and promote a shared understanding of the history of how we got to a point where Sierra does not renew its endorsement of a Democratic incumbent Governor in favor of a third party candidate.

How did it come about that a self-described and widely considered liberal, pro-environment, global warming fighting, green power champion incumbent is abandoned by Sierra?

How did Sierra come about endorsing a man who chaired the pro-development anti-environmental DEP “Permit Efficiency Review Task-Force”?

The answer is found in an old fashioned story of co-optation and inside baseball. This dynamic necessarily leads to ignoring organizing and an impaired ability to develop any kind of public movement to provide political support for policy goals.

Then DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson whispers in Governor Jon Corzine's ear

Then DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson whispers in Governor Jon Corzine’s ear

Ironically, Sierra Club’s early cheerleading for Corzine and their too close relationship with DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson basically created a very unhealthy dynamic. They got a lot of press blowing Corzine so full of hot air that he looked like a giant on the environment. Now,like Wall Street brokers cleaning up the mess they made, they are getting a lot of press slaying him.

From the beginning of the Administration, Sierra greatly inflated and unconditionally supported Corzine’s accomplishments (e.g. the warm embrace of Lisa Jackson’s “Category One” stream protections, and Meadowlands signing statement of the Global Warming Response Act).

Because Sierra had so highly praised Jackson for those stream rules (before they read the fine print) and Corzine for passage of the GWRA, it made it very hard to tell the truth about flaws and to focus on DEP’s total failure to implement the Act. It also created all sorts of political momentum for polluters and special interests to secure additional rollbacks of stream protections and hijack the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) cap and trade program bill. (for a critique of the GWRA, see: Star-Ledger Op-Ed: “No Teeth in ‘Tough’ Pollution Law”)

Sierra also either outright supported or looked the other way as Corzine continued to slash DEP budgets. Corzine watered down, ignored, or even rolled back every one of the policy commitments of his Gubernatorial electoral environmental platform (mandatory chemical plant safety, et al). Yet, there was no criticism for any of these compromises and sellouts – which sent a huge signal that Corzine would get a pass for promoting economic development over environmental and public health concerns.

At the same time, Sierra repeatedly pulled punches by withholding public criticism of the policies of their “friend”, DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson. This dynamic included playing co-opting inside games in Jackson’s hand picked “stakeholder processes”.

Sierra Club applauds Lisa Jackson water quality proposal - before reading the fine print. They later criticized the rule but not Jackson.

Sierra Club applauds Lisa Jackson water quality proposal – before reading the fine print. They later criticized the rule but not Jackson.

For example, Jackson created the “Site Remediation Taskforce” that provided political cover to further dismantle and privatize the DEP toxic site cleanup program. When enviro’s agreed to participate “in the room”, their successful high profile media campaign to expose flaws in the DEP program fell flat and ran out of the media and political energy required to lobby for real change.

Similarly, Jackson issued an Administrative Order that established the “Permit Efficiency Review Taskforce” in response to political pressure by the NJ Builders Association and business community. The business community manufactured another bogus attack on DEP’s alleged role in the housing market and economic collapse. Jackson caved to that gross lie. Yet, instead of criticism of this Taskforce’s anti-environmental agenda, Jackson was given a pass. And now we are seeing the political consequences of that mistake, because now Chris Daggett will get a pass for Chairing that effort. How many people know that DEP Commissioner Jackson abolished the Division of Science and research, based on this Task Force Report. 

Jackson negotiated and publicly sold the controversial “Permit Extension Act” on behalf of Corzine, thereby providing green cover

Yet we have heard very little from Sierra and enviro’s about all that. Had Christie Whitman done anything remotely similar to that kind of attack on DEP and science, Sierra would be holding multiple press conferences on the State House steps.

Sierra Club applauds Corzine at Meadowlands signing ceremony for Global Warming Response Act - they later called Corzine "full of hot air" for not implementing it.tate

Sierra Club applauds Corzine at Meadowlands signing ceremony for Global Warming Response Act – they later called Corzine “full of hot air” for not implementing it.

On the Legislative front, Sierra never pushed either for legislative oversight or to strengthen environmental laws. They basically gave a pass to friendly democrats who chaired the environmental committees, Assemblyman John McKeon and Senator Bob Smith. Neither Legislators nor Sierra had any appetite in holding fellow Democrats Corzine or Lisa Jackson of DEP accountable. Just look at how the Inspector General Cooper’s Encap Report was handled – softball questions and a pass by enviro’s.

Sierra’s multiple accountability failures misled the public, provided green cover, and thereby enabled some really bad stuff at DEP on the regulatory front and in the Legislature (privatized LSP, Permit Extension Act, RGGI, et al)

Of course, things got so bad that even Sierra was forced to criticize Corzine to maintain their credibility.

We would not have gone down this road if Sierra and other enviro’s told the truth and held Corzine accountable to his campaign promises (which he failed uniformly to deliver on) from the outset.

The political lessons to be learned here? – play it straight with the press and use media strategically. Don’t get co-opted by the inside game. The Democrats are not necessarily your friends. Organize

Lisa Jackson with fellow Cabinet member Joe Doria. Doria resigned after FBI search warrants were issued for his office and home in operation "Bid Rig" investigation. Doria was denounced by Sierra, but never Jackson.

Lisa Jackson with fellow Cabinet member Joe Doria. Doria resigned after FBI search warrants were issued for his office and home in operation “Bid Rig” investigation. Doria was denounced by Sierra, but never Jackson.

Destroying Nature to Make It “Accessible” – Paved Road, Parking Lots, Piers, and Pipes to “Improve” Pristine Ken Lockwood Gorge

August 18th, 2009 No comments


Father and son go fishing, but find destruction instead

Father and son go fishing, but find destruction instead

Like that proverbial Village in Vietnam that had to be destroyed to be saved, the DEP is destroying one of the few last remaining natural places to provide public access – you can view pictures of the destruction here.

Read the press acounts by Star Ledger here:

Naturalists dispute state’s idea of improvement


Sunday, August 02, 2009 –

The South Branch of the Raritan River sparkles on sunny summer mornings, crackling and babbling as it snakes through the towering, tree-covered ridges that define Ken Lockwood Gorge.

The wildlife management area is a 445-acre stretch of natural beauty tucked away in Hunterdon County, and its allure has attracted more than the usual mix of trout anglers whipping their fly rods and hikers searching for a brief afternoon of rustic serenity. Moms pushing strollers, friends walking dogs, picnickers lugging coolers and families pedaling bicycles are more frequent sights along the 2.5 miles of dirt, potholed road that hugs the south-side of the river bank.

Now they have company.

Backhoes, earth-movers and gravel-filled dump trucks are rumbling into the hemlock-lined gorge, along with engineers helping the state Department of Environmental Protection to accommodate throngs of visitors with what they call “improvements.” But some naturalists are calling it the destruction of the very thing people come to enjoy.” [link]

I’ve previously written and posted photo’s of the beauty of Ken Lockwood Gorge here.

But here is the recent story of how I happened upon this outrage.A few weeks back, on a fine July 1 day, my friend Benson Chiles gave me a call – he wanted to check out the fishing at a place called Natirar, a Somerset County park on the South Branch of the Raritan River. Glad to get out on a gorgeous day, I met him there. After a few hours with no luck, I suggested he might do better over at Ken Lockwood Gorge, so we headed over there.

I can’t tell you how pissed off we were to see this ugly, poorly designed and needless destruction. A paved road, parking lots, fishing piers, and drainage pipes suited for an interstate highway project in one of the last pristine places in NJ! 

I came back the next day and took pictures which I circulated to my colleagues and the press in an effort to to get word out to try and stop the project. I later found out that DEP defended the project as access and drainage “improvements”. But, curiously, the October 18, 2006 original project press release by former DEP Commissioner Jackson’ said nothing about any roads or piers – in fact, DEP press release issued at the time falsely claimed the road would become a trail and be closed to traffic – and no mention of pavement or piers.

But the trail only/road closure plan was scrapped along the way. DEP Deputy Commissioner Jay Watson has refused to identify who the “public” was that DEP allegedly responded to.

To clear this all up (someone at DEP is misleading the public), I filed an OPRA to find out what’s going on – my file review is tomorrow, 8/19/09.

We will keep you posted.

postscript – ironically, the Ken Lockwood destruction came to my attention at the same time I was re-reading Edward Abbey’s classic essay INDUSTRIAL TOURISM AND THE NATIONAL PARKSwhere he nails exactly what is going on here – just insert state for national:

“There may be some among the readers of this book, like the earnest engineer, who believe without question that any and all forms of construction and development are intrinsic goods, in the national parks as well as anywhere else, who virtually identify quantity with quality and therefore assume that the greater the quantity of traffic, the higher the value received. There are some who frankly and boldly advocate the eradication of the last remnants of wilderness and the complete subjugation of nature to the requirements of — not man — but industry. This is a courageous view, admirable in its simplicity and power, and with the weight of all modern history behind it. It is also quite insane. I cannot attempt to deal with it here….

The Park Service, established by Congress in 1916, was directed not only to administer the parks but also to “provide for the enjoyment of same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” This appropriately ambiguous language, employed long before the onslaught of the automobile, has been understood in various and often opposing ways ever since. The Park Service, like any other big organization, includes factions and factions. The Developers, the dominant faction, place their emphasis on the words “provide for the enjoyment.” The Preservers, a minority but also strong, emphasize the words “leave them unimpaired.” It is apparent, then, that we cannot decide the question of development versus preservation by a simple referral to holy writ or an attempt to guess the intention of the founding fathers; we must make up our own minds and decide for ourselves what the national parks should be and what purpose they should serve.

The first issue that appears when we get into this matter, the most important issue and perhaps the only issue, is the one called accessibility. The Developers insist that the parks must be made fully accessible not only to people but also to their machines, that is, to automobiles, motorboats, etc. The Preservers argue, in principle at least, that wilderness and motors are incompatible and that the former can best be experienced, understood, and enjoyed when the machines are left behind where they belong — on the superhighways and in the parking lots, on the reservoirs and in the marinas.

What does accessibility mean? Is there any spot on earth that men have not proved accessible by the simplest means — feet and legs and heart? Even Mt. McKinley, even Everest, have been surmounted by men on foot. (Some of them, incidentally, rank amateurs, to the horror and indignation of the professional mountaineers.) The interior of the Grand Canyon, a fiercely hot and hostile abyss, is visited each summer by thousands and thousands of tourists of the most banal and unadventurous type, many of them on foot — self-propelled, so to speak — and the others on the backs of mules. Thousands climb each summer to the summit of Mt. Whitney, highest point in the forty-eight United States, while multitudes of others wander on foot or on horseback through the ranges of the Sierras, the Rockies, the Big Smokies, the Cascades and the mountains of New England. Still more hundreds and thousands float or paddle each year down the currents of the Salmon, the Snake, the Allagash, the Yampa, the Green, the Rio Grande, the Ozark, the St. Croix and those portions of the Colorado which have not yet been destroyed by the dam builders. And most significant, these hordes of nonmotorized tourists, hungry for a taste of the difficult, the original, the real, do not consist solely of people young and athletic but also of old folks, fat folks, pale-faced office clerks who don’t know a rucksack from a haversack, and even children. The one thing they all have in common is the refusal to live always like sardines in a can — they are determined to get outside of their motorcars for at least a few weeks each year.

This being the case, why is the Park Service generally so anxious to accommodate that other crowd, the indolent millions born on wheels and suckled on gasoline, who expect and demand paved highways to lead them in comfort, ease and safety into every nook and corner of the national parks? For the answer to that we must consider the character of what I call Industrial Tourism and the quality of the mechanized tourists — the Wheelchair Explorers — who are at once the consumers, the raw material and the victims of Industrial Tourism. …

Accustomed to this sort of relentless pressure since its founding, it is little wonder that the Park Service, through a process of natural selection, has tended to evolve a type of administration which, far from resisting such pressure, has usually been more than willing to accommodate it, even to encourage it. Not from any peculiar moral weakness but simply because such well-adapted administrators are themselves believers in a policy of economic development. “Resource management” is the current term. Old foot trails may he neglected, back-country ranger stations left unmanned, and interpretive and protective services inadequately staffed, but the administrators know from long experience that millions for asphalt can always be found; Congress is always willing to appropriate money for more and bigger paved roads, anywhere — particularly if they form loops. Loop drives are extremely popular with the petroleum industry — they bring the motorist right back to the same gas station from which he started.

read the whole Abbey essay here 

All Quiet on the Regulatory Front – DEP Sits on Sidelines While Barnegat Bay is Dying

August 15th, 2009 2 comments


With Barnegat Bay’s survival in question, action demanded


Friday, July 31, 2009


It’s choked by invasive aquatic weeds, infested with jellyfish and devoid of clams and oysters that used to support an entire shellfish industry.

The Barnegat Bay, which separates mainland Ocean County from a barrier island of seashore towns, has been the subject of numerous studies, all pointing to the slow death of a fragile ecosystem over the last two decades. …

As commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection last year, Lisa Jackson publicly stressed the need to restrict the levels of nitrogen in lawn fertilizers that wash into the bay after rainstorms. Nitrogen promotes the excessive growth of algae and other plants, and deprives water of oxygen for native marine life, a condition known as eutrophication.

Bill Wolfe, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said neither Jackson — who now heads the federal Environmental Protection Agency — nor her interim replacement, acting Commissioner Mark Mauriello, has addressed the nitrogen issue” [click for story]

Tim Dillingham of American Littoral Society explains why the Bay is dying:IMG_8350

Barnegat Bay nearing point of no return

August 14, 2009 7:07AM


Barnegat Bay is nearing the brink of ecological death.

The Bay is an environmental treasure that has been struggling to survive pollution created by decades of overdevelopment and a failure of local and state government to protect it. Unchecked sprawl development, ill-considered use of fertilizers and polluted runoff are the principle villains. Additionally, the Oyster Creek nuclear generating station uses and heats billions of gallons of Bay water every day, killing marine life in the process.

The Bay has lost its ability to provide a healthy, robust habitat for shellfish and other living creatures that rely on clean waters. The Bay is also unable to provide for our recreational enjoyment as it did in so many childhoods because it has now become home to stinging sea nettles and harmful algae blooms — thriving because of the pollution.

One of the crown jewels of the Jersey Shore, the Bay supports a $3.5 billion dollar economy built on crabbing, fishing, swimming, boating, waterfront property values, a robust rental market and breathtaking views. It is a premiere eco-tourist destination and its jobs and revenue-generating power are inextricably linked to its ecological health” [full Op-Ed here]

While Tim did a nice job describing the problems in the Bay, he failed to identify solutions and hold officials accountable for the decline of the Bay’s health. There are plenty of things that can be done right now to stem the decline and move towards restoring the health of the bay.

In an article prior to the recent joint Senate and Assembly oversight hearing on the Bay, Kirk Moore of the Asbury Park Press identified key measures, mostly associated with enforcing standards and limiting pollution from nitrogen, a nutrient that accelerates eutrophication:

Lack of fertilizer rules likely a key issue at hearing

Senate Environment Committee to address Barnegat Bay water


LACEY – Delayed action on cleaning up Barnegat Bay with fertilizer controls and a new state standard for nitrogen in surface waters are likely to be a focal point when the state Senate Environment Committee holds a public hearing here Thursday. …

The environmental group Save Barnegat Bay still is trying to get traction for its model ordinance for controlling use of lawn fertilizer, considered one of the larger sources of nitrogen emissions to the bay through storm water runoff. Nitrogen compounds in the bay act just as they do in fertilizer on land, fueling blooms of algae that scientists say are tilting the bay’s ecosystem at a basic level, to the detriment of native species like clams and eelgrass. …

“The DEP could do a lot more to help,” said Bill Wolfe, an activist and former DEP employee who worked for years on water quality issues. “DEP could have a model ordinance and offer technical advice” to spare municipal governments the cost of research and implementing fertilizer controls, he said.

Wolfe also takes the state agency to task for failing to deliver on a new nitrogen standard to protect the bay that was backed by former DEP commissioner Lisa Jackson before she left to take on the job of Environmental Protection Agency administrator for the Obama administration.

“If DEP had a (nitrogen) standard, they could pull the trigger and mandate local action,” Wolfe said [click for article]

DEP is responsible for protecting the Bay, which is of statewide and national significance. But for years that have sat on the sidelines, not developed or enfored standards to protect the Bay, and rubber stamped development permits that have paved the way to ecological collapse.

The problems have finally drawn the attention of the Legislature. On July 30, a joint hearing was held by the Senate and Assembly environment committees. I attended the hearing and prepared testimony that focused on 10 things DEP could do right bnow to imrove the Bay’s condtions.

 DEP Deputy Commissioner testifies to the joint Senate and Assembly hearing on the health of Barnegat Bay -

DEP Deputy Commissioner testifies to the joint Senate and Assembly hearing on the health of Barnegat Bay –

I was deeply disappointed by DEP Deputy Commissioner John  Watson’s 25 minute power point presentation. Watson completely ignored DEP’s responsibilities and failed to note tools DEP could rapidly deploy to stem water quality problems. The DEP “Action Plan” Watson presented amounted to a pack of band aids cynically offered to create the misleading appearance that they are doing something.

If DEP were serious about protecting the bay, they would: 

1) adopt enforceable nitrogen standards and enforce nitrogen BMPs in regulatory programs;
2) classify all streams draining to the bay as “Category One’ waters, which provide 300 foot wide protected naturally vegetated buffers;
3) enforce cumulative impact standards in the CAFRA coastal permit program to limit the growth of addition soil/vegetation disturbance and new impervious surfaces, pollution sources and water withdrawals;
4) mandate cooling towers at Oyster Creek;
5) adopt the Ocean County Soil Conservation Service study recommendations on soil compaction and modify “TR 55″ manual to force builders to change site construction and storm water management practices;
6) mandate water conservation measures and cap current water withdrawals;
7) provide technical and financial assistance to Towns;
8 ) enforce the Clean Water Act’s “TMDL” program.


Yes, polluters and developers are pleased that DEP was silent – All’s Quiet on the Regulatory Front – despite the fact that just last summer DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson held a pres conference and made commitments to take regulatory actions, particularly to develop nitrogen standards and controls (nitrogen is the pollutant ht is driving the eutrophication that is killing the bay).

When DEP can not even talk about real solutions that involve enforcement of DEP regulations, adopting the findings of DEP scientists, and restricting development, something is terribly wrong.

DEP has totally abdicated its responsibility.

That should be an outrage to all New Jeresyeans.

Oh, before closing, about that 800 pound gorilla in the hearing room. You can’t make this stuff up.

The joint Legislative hearing was held in the district of Assemblyman Van Pelt, who just days before had been criminally indicted for taking bribes.

Van Pelt had been a member of the Assembly Environment Committee.

Van Pelt was indicted for agreeing to pressure DEP to issue CAFRA and wetlands permits. He bragged that he had successfully secured DEP permits and that “DEP works for me” and that he “knew the right guys” at DEP to “work the system”. Unlike Mr. Watson of DEP, Van Pelt sure didn’t hesitate to focus on specific DEP permit actions.

Shockingly, despite the fact that Van Pelt had used his legislative oversight power as a member of the Environment Committee in a criminal way, Committee Chairman John McKeon was silent.

Despite the fact that DEP was cast in an extremely negative light in the indictments, DEP Deputty Commissioner Jay Watson was silent.

McKeon and Watson’s cowardly silence spoke volumes.