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Senator Cardinale Calls NJ Streams “Drainage Ditches”

Stream “De-Snagging “Bill Would Gut Water Quality, Flood Prevention, & Habitat Protections

Cardinale Calls DEP C1 Stream Protections “Not Scientifically Justified”

This was supposed to be a stream desnagging project - Wanaque River, Pompton Lakes NJ

This was supposed to be a stream desnagging project – Wanaque River, Pompton Lakes NJ

They have been mutilating acres and acres of T&E habitat, dredging illegally  – all in total violation of their permit. ~~~ Ross Kushner, Pequannock River Coalition

The Senate Environment Committee heard 2 different bills today intended to make it easier for local officials to dredge and destroy sensitive streams and habitat under the guise of flood protection.

Both Senate sponsors presented competing Senate bills, sponsored by Senator Cardinale (R-Bergen/Passaic) (S156) and Senator Gordon (D-Bergen/Passaic) (S2677).

The Assembly already approved A3507 (the S2677 version) back in December 73-0. Today Chairman Smith said that the ***Assembly bill could have been released by his Committee and warned about requesting amendments  (Smith supported relief to towns but hinted that the bill would allow dredging in sensitive C1 streams, more below on that).

The bill was held and no public testimony was allowed – just the sponsors spoke.

The so called “stream de-snagging” controversy has dragged on for years, as legislators seek to allow local and county governments to bypass and evade DEP stream encroachment and wetlands permit requirements.

I wrote about problems that result from this type of dredging operation last year, see above photo and read:

Today, to justify his bill, Senator Cardinale repeated an incredible claim, calling NJ streams “drainage ditches” – 50 foot wide drainage ditches, some classified as C1 for “exceptional” water quality characteristics.

That ought to give you some idea of the environmental sensitivity of proponents of stream de-snagging

I’ve heard Cardinale say that before, so was not shocked.

But I was troubled by his claims about the DEP “Category One” (C1) stream protection program, which he said was not “scientifically justified”.

I fired off this letter to refute that false claim:

Dear Senators Smith, Cardinale and Gordon:

I’d like to followup to correct a serious error of fact in today’s testimony on the stream de-snagging bills.

Senator Cardinale – just after he referred to NJ’s streams as “drainage ditches” – stated that there were Category One (C1) designations made by the NJ DEP for political reasons that  were not scientifically justified.

As the leader of the DEP team that expanded and strengthened the DEP C1 program back in 2002 – 2004 to consider Exceptional Ecological Significance, Exceptional Fisheries Resource(s), and Exceptional Water Supply Significance, I take strong exception to that statement.

Senator Cardinale’s statement is false and lacked any asserted factual basis.

But you don’t have to take my word for it.

Legally, C1 designations are implemented via regulatory amendment to NJ’s Surface Water Quality Standards. The SWQS are federally mandated by the Clean Water Act. All NJ DEP amendments to SWQS are reviewed and approved by US EPA.

USEPA reviewed and approved all NJ DEP SWQS C1 designations. It is highly unlikely that EPA would have approved the C1 designations if they were, as Senator Cardinale stated, not scientifically justified.

Moreover, the Christie DEP under Commissioner Martin conducted a review of the Category One designation program, including the scientific basis of prior designations.

In November 2012, DEP released a report:

Senator Cardinale’s statement conflicts with the Christie DEP’s conclusions.

As you know, the Christie DEP has not been a supporter of the C1 program and has not designated a single stream mile as C1 over the prior 5 years.

Surely, if there were a scientific flaw in the C1 program, the Christie DEP would have disclosed that and relied on it as the justification for gutting the C1 program via inaction.

I am sure Senator Cardinale’s constituents will be concerned to learn that he considers streams in the district as “drainage ditches” and thinks one of NJ’s most effective water quality programs lacks a scientific justification.

Finally, below see a photograph of a “Stream de-snagging” project in Pompton Lakes in the Wanaque River at Hershfield Park. The project violated DEP permits, failed to secure required soil conservation permits, and was shut down by joint oversight and enforcement efforts of EPA, DEP and the soil conservation District.

I’d be glad to clarify.



*** corrected version

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