Bulls Island Update
There has been lots of activity since we last posted on 3/25, so a quick update on Bulls Island is in order. I’ll do the photos first and the regulatory stuff second.
First some good news – I visited the site again today and noted that all the tires and most (but not all) of the debris had been removed from the riverfront fill and that a 100 foot sediment control fence was installed (see above photo).
Now the bad news: for some reason the fence was only installed along 100 feet of the 450 foot long riverfront fill.
Worse, it looks like DEP plans to leave the debris & fill in place and not even try to restore the natural vegetation that was destroyed.
That is not acceptable and I will seek removal and restoration during the enforcement process.
Compared with the natural riverfront condition, the vegetative clearing and small landfill that has been created along the river is a disgrace (compare these two photos):
A quick regulatory update.
First, here’s what I’ve gathered actually happened:
The NJ Water Supply Authority was conducting what they felt was routine maintenance dredging under a USACE permit and a DEP wetlands General Permit. On 3/21, I witnessed them filling a dump truck with dredge material for offsite disposal.
A state parks employee told me that NJWSA bulldozed debris and fill along the river at their request as a courtesy.
A NJWSA rep told me that 98% of the riverfront debris and fill was NOT from the Canal dredge operation. This is important because both the USACE and DEP permits restrict storage and disposal of dredge material and debris. Both permits do not allow riverfront disposal.
NJWSA says they have an agreement with DEP on the the wetlands permit which seasonally restrict dredging to protect trout. NJWSA says that seasonal trout restriction and any soil erosion management practices are not necessary.
The DEP wetlands permit also requires fences and seasonal restriction to protect wood turtle. NJWSA did not comment on that.
The regulatory agencies with jurisdiction/activity are:
1) US Army Corps of Engineers (D&R Canal dredge); 2) NJ DEP (wetlands permit for canal dredge and unp-ermitted activity along riverfront); 3) D&R Canal Commission (canal dredge and riverfront fill and disturbance: 4) Hunterdon County Soil Conservation Service (canal dredge and riverfront disturbance); and 5) Delaware River Basin Commission (not sure exactly what their role is).
Canal Dredge – US Army Corps of Engineers Dredge Permit
The USACE permit has a number of conditions that appear to have been violated. I sent a detailed letter to the USACE requesting compliance inspection for their permit. Let me know if you’d like a copy.
Canal Dredge – DEP Wetlands General Permit
The DEP permit had a number of conditions that appear to have been violated. Most significant include: 1) fencing and seasonal restrictions to protect wood turtle; Â 2) seasonal restrictions to protect downriver trout stocking; and 3) compliance with soil erosion and sediment control plan requirements.
I requested DEP enforcement inspection but not been more specific.
DEP land use enforcement advised me that DEP inspected the site on 3/13 and remarkably found no violations. I have no idea what they were looking at.
After I submitted photographs documenting violations, they agreed to reinspect the site and meet with the NJWSA and Park Supervisior. I don’t yet have documents on what occured.
Riverfront bulldozing , destruction of riparian soils & vegetation, and storage and/or disposal of debris and fill
DEP staff conducted a permit database search and told me the there were no permits issued for this activity.
What was done there appears to be a flagrant violation of DEP flood hazard control act regulatory requirements and local SCS soil erosion and sediments controls (the area was 450 feet by 30-100 feet, far greater than the 5,000 square foot threshold for permits).
I referred this for enforcement to USACE, DEP, Hunterdon County SCS and D&R Canal Commission.
I haven’t heard anything back from those agencies yet. However, I do know that DEP, D&R Canal Commission, and Hunterdon Co, SCS all conducted inspections.
Tree Health Assessment and Tree Removal Plans
This is the most important issue.
I filed an OPRA request for these documents. Today, DEP requested an extension until April 5.
In other matters, I am aware that Delare Riverkeeper filed a DEP Hotline complaint and is involved.
I’ve provided info to NJ Audubon and requested their support, particularly on the bird habitat issues related to any planned tree removal. They seem interested and supportive.
I spoke with editor of the Hunterdon County Democrat – they should be doing a followup story.
The DEP Press Office (Larry Rangonese) is unrepentant and continues to attack me and question my motives.
We will keep you posted. More photos shot today below.