DEP Statements On Bulls Island Are Flat Out False
DEP Lies and Attacks The Messenger
D&R Canal Dredge Distinct from Bulldozing Riverfront
The DEP press office lied and attacked me in a Hunterdon County Democrat March 15 story. This post exposes those lies.
The aerial photo above is a portion of Bulls Island along the Delaware River. This area is located entirely within the regulated flood hazard area.
Over 300 feet of this vegetated area between the river and the paved path (you can see above) was bulldozed.
The bulldozing destroyed the vegetation that was present (you can see above) – small trees and other plants.
The bulldozing also disturbed soil and buried a lot of debris. Things like tires were buried and covered up, not cleaned up. Here, take a ground level look (taken on 3/21) and note the small trees that were bulldozed:
Bulldozing debris, destruction of vegetation, and disturbance of soils in this area is a “regulated activity” in a “regulated area” that requires permits under DEP flood hazard regulations, and possibly DEP freshwater wetlands and local soil erosion and sediment control regulations.
I visited the site, saw this for myself, and have provided several ground level photographs to document this problem, see photos taken on March 10 and again on March 21. If you are not able Â to hit the links, here’s another ground level shot (taken on 3/21) of destruction of vegetation, and soil and debris virtually in the river:
In contrast, the aerial photo below is of the northern tip of Bulls Island where the Delaware River flows into the D&R Canal.
The NJ Water Supply Authority (NJWSA) is dredging a portion of the D&R Canal from the northern tip of Bulls Island about 3,000 feet south. This dredging is being conducted under a US Army Corps of Engineers permit. Here is what that project looks like (taken on 3/21):
The riverfront bulldozing and the D&R Canal dredging are entirely DIFFERENT projects in DIFFERENT locationsÂ subject to DIFFERENT regulations, DIFFERENT technical requirements and with DIFFERENT impacts.
But the DEP Press Office either does not know the difference between the two projects or they are intentionally lying about them. Either possibility is totally unacceptable.
Flood plains and riverfront vegetation and soils are some of the most environmentally sensitive features and heavily regulated areas.
For example, here are the purposes of DEP flood hazard regulations (NJAC 7:13-1.1(c):
- Healthy vegetation adjacent to surface waters is essential for maintaining bank stability and water quality. The indiscriminate disturbance of such vegetation destabilizes the banks of channels and other surface waters, which leads to increased erosion and sedimentation that exacerbates the intensity and frequency of flooding. The loss of vegetation adjacent to surface waters also reduces filtration of stormwater runoff and thus degrades the quality of these waters. Such impacts adversely affect the health and habitat of fish and wildlife that depend upon clean surface waters and therefore disrupt the ecological balance that is necessary for life. Humans are ultimately affected by this imbalance, since clean water is essential for all life.
Because vegetation and soils along stream and rivers are so important, here is what DEP regulations require (NJAC 7:13-2.1:)
No person shall engage in a regulated activity in a regulated area without a flood hazard area permit as required by this chapter, or a coastal permit as required by N.J.A.C. 7:7 and 7:7E, as set forth in (b) and (c) below. Initiation of a regulated activity in a regulated area without a flood hazard area or coastal permit as set forth at (b) below (except as provided in (c) below) shall be considered a violation of this chapter and shall subject the party or parties responsible for the regulated activity to enforcement action, as set forth at N.J.A.C. 7:13-19. Regulated areas are set forth at N.J.A.C. 7:13-2.3 and regulated activities are set forth at N.J.A.C. 7:13-2.4.
Here is the definition of “regulated activity”Â (NJAC 7:13-2.4):
7:13-2.4 Regulated activities
(a) Any action that includes or results in one or more of the following constitutes a regulated activity under this chapter if undertaken in a regulated area, as described at N.J.A.C. 7:13-2.3:
- The alteration of topography through excavation, grading and/or placement of fill;
- The clearing, cutting and/or removal of vegetation in a riparian zone;
- The creation of impervious surface;
- The storage of unsecured material;
- The construction, reconstruction and/or enlargement of a structure; and
- The conversion of a building into a private residence or a public building.
Seemingly ignorant of their own regulatory requirements, here is what the DEP Press Office told the Hunterdon County Democrat in a March 15 story (the article is reprinted in its entirely below).
As you can see, because the riverfront bulldozing has nothing to do with the D&R Canal dredging, these remarks are incomplete, false, and mislead the public into thinking that the riverfront bulldozing either did not occur or is a permitted part of the D&R Canal dredging:
DELAWARE TWP. â€” The piles of debris including tires and other materials at Bulls Island State Park are a result of routine maintenance dredging of the Delaware and Raritan Canal, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection said today, Thursday.
â€œThis is an environmentally positive effort,â€ Larry Ragonese said, rather than the desecrationÂ described by environmental activist Bill Wolfe of West Amwell Township in an article published on NJ.com on Wednesday.
The park, along the Delaware River, is mostly in Delaware Township, with the northern portion in Kingwood Township.
â€œWhat looked like fill material was being bulldozed along about 400 feet of the floodplain. It was full of solid waste: tires, metal, bottles and cans, chunks of steel and construction debris, wood, and PVC pipe,â€ he said.
According to Ragonese, the state Water Supply Authority is doing the work, and it has â€œpermits from the DEP and the Army Corps of Engineers.â€ The authority has responsibility for various public water supplies, including that carried in the canal.
The cleanup â€œis a permitted action that is being done to improve the health of the canal,â€ he added.
Ragonese called Wolfe â€œcompletely ridiculous and irresponsibleâ€ for his comments. Debris is removed from the canal annually, â€œto keep in flowing and healthy,â€ Ragonese said.
The materials piled up along the bank is more than normal, he said, because of the big rain storms last year that carried more into the canal.
The soil will be re-used, he said, while the other items will be gone through and separated, recycling whatâ€™s possible and disposing of the rest properly, he said. (emphases mine)
Here are a few facts that contradict DEP’s statements. Larry Ragonese should get out of the office a little more or at least do The Google Maps before he shoots off his mouth:
- The tires and debris along the river did not come from the D&R Canal dredging;
- I never used the word “desecration” to describe what was going on at Bulls Island (see my March 10 post). That is someone else’s word, not mine;
- The bulldozing of soils, destruction of vegetation, and burying of debris are environmentally destructive efforts that have nothing to do with the benefits of D&R Canal dredging and maintenance.
- I contacted the US Army Corps of Engineers on March 23 and brought this matter to their attention. I soon will obtain the US Army Corps dredge permit. But I spoke with staff and I strongly doubt that the Army Corps permit authorizes or has ANYTHING TO DO with the the riverfront bulldozing.
- I wrote a letter to DEP Commissioner Martin on March 10 to bring this matter to his attention and ask him what was going on there. I again contacted Martin on March 15 to followup. These efforts on my part are what led to the DEP’s March 15 press release, which advised the public of the campground closing.Â This is responsible behavior on my part and the DEP Press Office is both lying and engaging in personal attacks by claiming I was “ridiculous and irresponsible”.
- I brought this issue to the attention of the D&R Canal Commission on March 21. The Executive Director and DEP staff to the Commission conducted a inspection on March 23.
- I filed OPRA requests for any DEP permits issued.
- On March 23, I contacted the DEP Hotline and enforcement staff and filed a complaint requesting that DEP conduct a site inspection and take enforcement action.
- Because the D&R Canal Executive Director and DEP staff inspected the site on Friday (3/23/12), Â I soon will have their inspection report as well.
- On March 23, I spoke to Terry Wright, the Hunterdon County Democrat reporter and left a message on the tape of his editor complaining about their March 15 story. I also emailed Larry Rangonese to provide the above information.Â Wright defended his false and misleading story, accused me of misleading his newspaper, and asked questions about who I worked for and who funded my work.Â Rangonese replied, never addressed one substantive issue, and attacked me for criticizing DEP managers.
Full transparency: I plan to take these documents to the DEP Press Office and the Hunterdon County Democrat and demand a retraction of false statements and personal attacks on me that the Democrat recklessly printed without contacting me and providing me the opportunity to rebut or clarify the situation.
We’ll keep you posted as things develop.