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DEP Statements On Bulls Island Are Flat Out False

March 25th, 2012 8 comments

DEP Lies and Attacks The Messenger

D&R Canal Dredge Distinct from Bulldozing Riverfront

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Bulls Island along Delaware riverfront - over 300 feet of vegetation between the river and the paved trail segment was bulldozed and debris was buried in violation of DEP flood hazard (stream encroachment) regulations

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:

debris

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  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:

debris2

In contrast, the aerial photo below is of the northern tip of Bulls Island where the Delaware River flows into the D&R Canal.

Delaware River flows into D&R Canal at northern tip of Bulls inland State Park. A canal dredging project is being conduced there.

Delaware River flows into D&R Canal at northern tip of Bulls inland State Park. A canal dredging project is being conduced there.

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):

debris3

The riverfront bulldozing and the D&R Canal dredging are entirely DIFFERENT projects in DIFFERENT locations 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):

  1. 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” (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:

  1. The alteration of topography through excavation, grading and/or placement of fill;
  2. The clearing, cutting and/or removal of vegetation in a riparian zone;
  3. The creation of impervious surface;
  4. The storage of unsecured material;
  5. The construction, reconstruction and/or enlargement of a structure; and
  6. 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. — 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.

“This is an environmentally positive effort,” Larry Ragonese said, rather than the desecration 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.

“What 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,” he said.

According to Ragonese, the state Water Supply Authority is doing the work, and it has “permits from the DEP and the Army Corps of Engineers.” The authority has responsibility for various public water supplies, including that carried in the canal.

The cleanup “is a permitted action that is being done to improve the health of the canal,” he added.

Ragonese called Wolfe “completely ridiculous and irresponsible” for his comments. Debris is removed from the canal annually, “to keep in flowing and healthy,” 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 what’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. 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),  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. 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. 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.

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Obama All In For Oil & Gas – Disrupt Dirty Power

March 24th, 2012 No comments

As Climate Disasters Mount, and Temperature Record Are Shattered, Obama Brags About Oil and Gas Production

Canadian Tar Sands - Extreme energy will cook the planet

Canadian Tar Sands – Extreme energy will cook the planet

I was disgusted to watch President Obama’s celebration of his Administration’s promotion of fossil fuel production, when he was in Oklahoma this week to announce his “All of the Above” energy strategy.

Fulfilling every oil and gas industry lobbyists’ wet dream and repeating every lie, Obama said:

So today, I’ve come to Cushing, an oil town — (applause) — because producing more oil and gas here at home has been, and will continue to be, a critical part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy.  (Applause.)

Now, under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years.  (Applause.)  That’s important to know.  Over the last three years, I’ve directed my administration to open up millions of acres for gas and oil exploration across 23 different states.  We’re opening up more than 75 percent of our potential oil resources offshore. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth and then some.

So we are drilling all over the place — right now. That’s not the challenge.  That’s not the problem. In fact, the problem in a place like Cushing is that we’re actually producing so much oil and gas in places like North Dakota and Colorado that we don’t have enough pipeline capacity to transport all of it to where it needs to go –– both to refineries, and then, eventually, all across the country and around the world. There’s a bottleneck right here because we can’t get enough of the oil to our refineries fast enough.  And if we could, then we would be able to increase our oil supplies at a time when they’re needed as much as possible.

Now, right now, a company called TransCanada has applied to build a new pipeline to speed more oil from Cushing to state-of-the-art refineries down on the Gulf Coast.  And today, I’m directing my administration to cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles, and make this project a priority, to go ahead and get it done.  (Applause.)

I thought Obama’s State of the Union Fossil Fuel Celebration was way over the top, but this new “All of the Above” energy policy goes way beyond that.

Obama’s total collapse demonstrates what Chris Hedges has written:  our political and economic systems are broken, and direct action and civil disobedience are all we have left.

Today, Occupy Wall Street begins to connect the dots between the bankers and the polluters, by kicking off Disrupt Dirty Power – The Eviction of the Fossil Fuel Occupation Begins:

The targets of the actions -which begin exactly three months before the 2012 Earth Summit in Rio – are three-fold, as Occupy connects the dots between dirty fossil fuel giants, the dirty banks that fund them, and the dirty legislation and subsidies those corporations receive from politicians they help to elect with their profits.

On a similar direct action path, Bill McKibben at 350.org – obviously burned by President Obama on the Keystone XL Pipeline – kicked off his “connect the dots” campaign: connecting the dots between global warming and extreme weather events (just as over 6,000 US temperature records broken).

Here’s what McKibben wrote – he was FAR more restrained than I: (watch McKibben on Democract Now!)

Earlier today, Barack Obama wrapped up his first trip to Oklahoma as President. He arrived just after a week of floods, capping off a winter that never came, which followed the hottest and driest summer Oklahoma had seen in thousands of years, perhaps ever.

But he wasn’t in Oklahoma to talk about these climate disasters. He was there to laud his administration’s fast-tracking of the southern leg of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. It’s obvious from his speech today that President Obama isn’t connecting the dots between fossil fuel extraction, climate change, and the extreme weather that has reshaped so much of the American landscape this past year.

It’s a painful reminder that sometimes we must be leaders ourselves, before we can expect our elected officials to do the same. In this case, it’s clearly up to us to connect the dots.

Today 350.org is launching a global day of action to call attention to these and other climate disasters, here on the same day as the President’s annoucement. Across the planet now we see ever more flooding, ever more drought, ever more storms. People are dying, communities are being wrecked — the impacts we’re already witnessing from climate change are unlike anything we have seen before.

If we’re going to do these communities justice, we need to connect the dots between these disasters and show how all of them are linked to fossil fuels. We’re setting aside May 5th for a global day of action to do just that: Connect the Dots between extreme weather and climate change.

You don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows.

tar sands3

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First Cup of Coffee

March 24th, 2012 No comments

sunrise2

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Big Night For Cornell Hockey

March 24th, 2012 No comments

Cornell Beats #1 Seed Michigan in OT – Regional Final Tonight

(source: Cornell athletics)

(source: Cornell athletics)

I didn’t think that after the ECAC semifinal debacle in Atlantic City that Cornell would get an NCAA tournament bid.

But they beat Colgate 3-0 in the ECAC consolation game and were given a slot in the NCAA tournament, facing #2 national ranked Michigan (#1 in Midwest regional).

I watched this one on ESPNU last night from Wildflowers in Hopewell.

Great game – Cornell sat on a 2-1 lead for the entire third period, but Michigan tied it with 4 minutes left.

I figured Cornell would lose in OT, given that momentum.

But Big Red came out of the defensive shell they lapsed into in the third period and looked confident, scoring the winner just 3;35 into overtime.

Regional final at 8 pm tonight, v. #2 seed Ferris State (who beat Denver). Winner moves on to the Frozen Four (in Florida of all places!)

Read the Cornell writeup and see more great photos.

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Another Patronage Hack Installed On DEP Management Team

March 22nd, 2012 2 comments

[Update: 3/23/12 – A comment from my friend Bill Neil prompts me to reflect: just let this sink in for a moment:

The head of NJ’s natural resource programs is a former corporate real estate executive.

His real estate experience in “land acquisition” is touted as a qualification by DEP Commissioner Martin.

No NJ ENGO’s or news outlets object, and some ENGO’s continue to praise and work with the Christie Administration.

That about sums things up. – end update

DEP Commissioner Bob Martin likes to tout his private sector credentials, and stress his management expertise and emphasis on performance metrics.

Well, I didn’t go to B-School, but I recall my mom told me: “Measure a man by those he surrounds himself with.”

By that measure, Martin is a failure.

Rich Boornazian, new DEP Assistant Commissioner for Historic and Natural Resources

Rich Boornazian, new DEP Assistant Commissioner for Natural and Historic Resources

So, today we note Martin’s announcement that he installed another manager with no environmental training or experience.

I guess it’s Martin’s economic development and customer service management philosophy that qualifies the new Assistant Commissioner (because he obviously knows nothing about natural resources or history).

Martin wrote:

effective Monday, March 26, current Green Acres and Ecological Restoration Administrator Rich Boornazian will fill the critical role of Assistant Commissioner for Natural and Historic Resources.

Rich has 30 years of diverse management experience in the fields of information technology, land acquisition, finance and private consulting. Before joining DEP two years ago, Rich was Vice President and Chief Information Officer for Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc., and since then has adeptly led our land acquisition program under Green Acres. I have great confidence in Rich’s leadership as we implement the Sustainable Funding Strategy for State Parks, DEP Goal #4.

Maybe the new boat ramp access fees were Rich’s brainfart?

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