Archive for July, 2019

Toxic Lakes And Institutional Racism

July 26th, 2019 No comments

NJ State Parks and Open Space Programs Recall The Racist Practices of Robert Moses

[Updates below – McCabe Op-Ed response]

My good friend and former colleague Jeff Tittel has a brilliant Op-Ed running in today’s Bergen Record – read the whole thing:

Tittel connects the dots between toxic algae blooms that have closed major NJ recreational lakes, regulatory failures at the NJ DEP, and disinvestment in State parks.

I want to discuss briefly Tittel’s key conclusion:

Under Gov. Christie Whitman the focus of Green Acres went from parks and people to buying open space like farms and forests. As part of that change, she cut DEP’s parks staff from 1,000 to 400, where it still remains. I believe that was part of their plan because they didn’t want more people from urban areas coming out to recreate in wealthy suburban and rural areas. Those policies continue. …

Too many legislators with houses on Long Beach Island aren’t worried about swimming areas in North Jersey. Too many environmental groups cater to the country-club set, not parks and people.

Ouch!! (Is Senator Bob Smith, Chairman of the Environment Committee, the only legislator with a house on LBI? I don’t think so!).

[Update: In an email, Tittel adds:

Whitman also eliminated summer time bus service to our state parks from urban areas – Paterson to shepards pond – Perth Amboy to spruce run also eliminated the Warwick bus summer stop at Ringwood state park. ~~~ end update

I’ve written about how NJ’s “Green Acres” program is biased towards protecting the backyards of the wealthy elites, serving many of the same exclusionary and racist objectives as primitive private “restrictive covenants” and public municipal zoning struck down by NJ Courts, (and the US Supreme Court, , see Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1, 68 S.Ct. 836, 92 L.Ed. 1161 (1948); )see:

I’ve also written about how open space advocates, such as the Keep It Green Coalition (KIG), are funded by those same wealthy elites and Foundations, who are dues paying members and serve on the Boards of Directors and set policy that biases open space efforts, see:

KIG not only biases the open space program in favor of wealthy elites and against urban, poor and minority neighborhoods, but they stole public funds that were constitutionally dedicated to State parks and shifted them to acquisition of lands in the backyards of their elite Boards, members, and funders, see:

As Tittel notes, that has resulted in disinvestment in State parks – and lack of an urban parks program.

NJ’s open space and parks program priorities are a more sophisticated version of a very old form of anti-urbanism and institutional racism.

There are lots of ways elites keep out the riff-raff – institutional and structural, e.g. public investments, private covenants, disinvestment, “redlining”, zoning and land use restrictions, and even pure neglect that leads to toxic algae blooms.

NJ’s policies Tittel criticizes, i.e. those to prevent “more people from urban areas coming out to recreate in wealthy suburban and rural areas” – remind me of those practiced by Robert Moses.

Many people are aware of why Moses designed the bridge heights on the Long Island parkways: (How Low Did He Go?)

This summer, as New Yorkers head out to Long Island’s beach towns and parks on the Southern State Parkway, they’ll pass beneath a series of overpass bridges made infamous in Robert A. Caro’s monumental 1974 biography of Robert Moses, The Power Broker.

In one of the book’s most memorable passages, Caro reveals that Moses ordered his engineers to build the bridges low over the parkway to keep buses from the city away from Jones Beach—buses presumably filled with the poor blacks and Puerto Ricans Moses despised. The story was told to Caro by Sidney M. Shapiro, a close Moses associate and former chief engineer and general manager of the Long Island State Park Commission.

As Marta Gutman notes, Robert Caro also wrote about Moses and segregation in public swimming pools:

The man’s (Moses) passion for extending New Deal benefits to New Yorkers of color was less clear. Moses had no qualms about manipulating public policy to imprint his values, including antidemocratic ones, on liberal reform programs. In 1938 he eviscerated an amendment to the New York State Constitution that Martha Biondi has shown would have allowed the state government to battle racial discrimination in the private sector.13 Robert Caro underscores other ugly outcomes of Moses’s public work, ascribing them to the commissioner’s personal antipathy for people of color. This assessment leads to the serious charge that Moses not only tolerated race prejudice in the WPA swimming pools, but deliberately segregated them. Caro targets pools in Thomas Jefferson Park in East Harlem and Colonial (now Jackie Robinson) Park in Central Harlem, arguing the former was sited in a white and the latter in a black neighborhood, so each would be racially segregated. At Jefferson Park Pool, Caro asserts that decisions were taken about design and staffing to assure that only white people swam there.14

(see: Race, Place, and Play – Robert Moses and the WPA Swimming Pools in New York City – by Marta Gutman, The City College of New York)

Gutman tells a more nuanced and complex story than Caro:

Moses was a racial conservative, but the sweeping charges do not hold up under close scrutiny of the physical city and evidence uncovered since the publication of my research in Robert Moses and the Modern City: The Transfor- mation of New York. In this article, I argue that framing the discussion of race in terms of individual prejudice has dis- tracted attention from the more powerful political, spatial, and structural dynamics of racism, forces of which Moses was fully aware, and the actions some New Yorkers took to counteract them. As Biondi has argued, emphasizing per- sonal prejudice obscures the relationship of the man to the trajectory of reform liberalism in American politics. Biondi insists liberalism was rendered tragic by compromise with racial segregation—tainted by its appearance during the Jim Crow era and the ensuing unholy alliance forged during the New Deal between southern segregationists and northern politicians. The result, public policy deeply ingrained with the effects of race prejudice, proved devastating for blacks and cities.15 However, the outcome was not set in stone in New York during the 1930s. After a race riot exploded in Harlem in 1935, Moses constructed a stellar modern facility for public recreation in Central Harlem that challenged the unequal treatment of black and white Americans, widespread during the New Deal.16

Tittel’s arguments – in light of the New Deal era history Robert Caro and Gutman write about – are particularly relevant as the discussion of the Green New Deal emerges in the current context of Black Lives Matter and a focus on institutional racism.

[Update: 7/27/19 – DEP gets hammered in a Tittel Bergen Record Op-Ed for neglect and elitism. How do they respond?

The next day, they lift the advisory on a tiny portion of lake Hopatcong that is accessible to the public only by boat!

Indian Harbor, which is only accessible by boat, is near beaches that will not be accessible due to continued high bacteria levels, including 24,750 at Pebble Beach, 24,500 at Sand Harbor and 26,750 as Bass Rock Beach.

Talk about tone deaf political malpractice! How do you double down on the kind of charges Tittel made?  Just what does it take to get fired?

And Commissioner McCabe is not only tone deaf. She is a coward – her statement runs away from the DEP advisory, dodging “blame” for effectively closing the lake to recreation:

An advisory is not a ban or an order for lake closure. An advisory is a form of guidance. No one would be ticketed or removed from the water if they choose to swim or engage in watersports when an advisory is issued. An advisory is meant to provide the public with information to help people make choices for themselves.

Not only is this statement cowardly, but it sends the wrong message to the public, virtually inviting people into the water.

Finally, it abdicates DEP’s responsibility to protect public health by relying on an ideological stance: i.e. “people make choices for themselves”. 

Some risks are too great to allow individual choice to govern decision-making. In such cases, Government must step up and assume responsibility.  

McCabe is a coward – she fears Mulshine’s attack on “Nanny State” grounds.

Finally, DEP’s statement misleads the public about DEP’s overall lake management program – science and regulatory oversight. DEP brags about how wonderful they are::

From Lake to Lab: New Jersey’s Advanced Process for Monitoring Harmful Algal Blooms

New Jersey has one of the most advanced monitoring processes and protective standards to reduce the risk to public health. DEP’s aggressive monitoring program on Lake Hopatcong includes daily monitoring and detailed scientific analysis of several water quality parameters related to harmful algal blooms.

But that statement documents ONLY DEP’s EMERGENCY REACTION to the HAB.

It says NOTHING about prevention, routine water quality monitoring and assessment, program staffing and funding, and the adequacy of DEP’s regulatory actions (i.e. Lake TMDL for nutrients).

It says NOTHING about solutions, e.g. mandatory septic pumpouts, investments in infrastructure upgrades, stricter regulations, etc

DEP has failed miserably on those matters. ~~~ end update]

[Update #2 – 7/29/19 – DEP Commissioner McCabe wrote an Op-Ed in today’s

It’s almost as if she read my prior posts and update above and confirmed my criticism.

First of all, McCabe blamed “mother nature” (which is a blatant form of denial of climate change and DEP regulatory responsibilities)

DEP will lift the advisories, as soon as the testing indicates that bacteria cell counts are trending reliably below the health advisory level. Unfortunately, control of those conditions at this point is in the hands of Mother Nature, who has not been kind lately as we have experienced heavy rains and elevated heat levels.

Second, it finally outlining solutions to the problem, she ignores DEP’s regulatory responsibilities and enforcement powers, instead pointing the finger at local governments and individuals:

In the long-term, we know the steps we must take to prevent future algal blooms. Algal blooms are fed by nutrients, most notably phosphorus, from septic tanks, surface runoff, and stormwater that flows into the lakes, either directly or through the lakes’ many feeder streams. Nutrients in lawn fertilizers and animal droppings readily flow into the lake when it rains.

The solutions are not necessarily difficult or expensive. Much can be accomplished through simple methods – residents in the watershed should routinely clean out septic systems, communities should sweep streets and clean stormwater catch basins ahead of the summer season. Property owners can reduce or forego fertilizer application, and install green infrastructure.

Has McCabe even read the DEP’s TMDL for Lake Hopatcong? Does she know it says THIS:

“eutrophic lakes & aquatic life impairments are ranked as Low Priority in the 2002 Integrated List of Waterbodies because they are not directly related to human health issues” @ p.9

Is she aware of DEP’s voluntary provisions of the Water Quality Management Planning rules (NJAC 7:15-1 et seq) – that apply to septics, septic districts and pump-outs?

Does McCabe know of DEP powers to reduce nutrients under numerous regulations, including stormwater, stream encroachment, freshwater wetlands, water quality standards, septic design, and Highlands Act?

Does McCsbe know that the DEP’s Wetlands Strategy is weak? (wetlands cycle and store nutrients)

Is she aware of significant gaps and loopholes in DEP regulations, such as forestry management BMP’s?

Has McCabe read DEP’s Nutrient Management Strategy?

How could McCabe IGNORE ALL THAT? Awful Op-Ed.

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Lazing on a Sunny Afternoon – On The Yellowstone

July 25th, 2019 No comments
Yellowstone river, at Livingston Montana
Yellowstone river, at Livingston Montana

The tax man’s taken all my dough
And left me in my stately home
Lazing on a sunny afternoon
And I can’t sail my yacht
He’s taken everything I got
All I’ve got’s this sunny afternoon

Save me, save me, save me from this squeeze
I gotta big fat mama trying to break me
And I love to live so pleasantly
Live this life of luxury
Lazing on a sunny afternoon
In the summertime. ~~~ The Kinks (1966)

Spectacular day – bright sunshine, cloudless sky, and temperatures around 80 (but the constant 25 mph wind and dry air make it feel like 70). Visions of Paradise. 

The trees are drawing me near, I’ve got to find out why.





Now you know that you are real.


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Green New Deal Rolls On – From The San Juans To The Tetons

July 24th, 2019 No comments
Slate retire alley - Mt. Baldy

Slate river valley – Mt. Baldy – just outside Crested Butte Colorado

The Pelosi-Schumer corporate Democrats and the media may be running away from The Green New Deal, but, we assure our readers that we are rolling along (BTW, the favorable thumbs up, waves, and horn honks as we ride the western backroads are running about 100 – 1! This is in the so called “Red State” fossil energy dependent west.).

As its been over a month since I last posted about our journey (from Ophir, Colorado), I thought I’d update folks on our recent exploits, from the San Juans to the Tetons (camping in national forests, with no Internets connections).

Given recent events, we will post policy pieces on the following issues in the upcoming days:

  • Gov. Murphy’s Global Warming Response Act amendments actually weaken current law
  • DEP helping to build a massive new fossil Petro-chemical Fortress on the Delaware
  • DEP Cleanup Plan (TMDL) for Lake Hopatcong Ignored Toxic Algae Blooms
  • RGGI derailed – Is there an exit ramp down the RGGI road coming soon?
  • I am not a “Distributed Energy Resource” (DER) – “raw material” Mario Savio Lives!

Now, getting back to the journey – We arrived in Ophir following a spectacular route from northwestern New Mexico (Sante Fe, to Taos, to Bandolier) northward across southwestern Colorado (Pagosa Springs, Durango, Dolores), where we saw historic river flows from the snow capped San Juan mountain range.

Rio Grande gorge, just west of Taos, NM

Rio Grande gorge, just west of Taos, NM

We saw record river flows on the following rivers as we crossed southwestern Colorado (hit links for USGS flow data):

Thankfully, Ophir was our last experience with wicked hailstorms, as we headed north and northwest – including a return to Rico, Lizard Head Pass, Toxic Telluride, Ridgway (where I got bitten by a dog) and Montrose (where I got treated for the dog bite in the emergency room).

Lizard Head Pass - snow and sleet on June 15, 2019

Lizard Head Pass – snow and sleet on June 15, 2019

By the time we arrived in Crested Butte, the Gunnison County Sheriff had closed all the rivers to all watercraft due to hazards conditions, including the Slate, East and Gunnison Rivers.

We spoke with a federal law enforcement officer who told us that there had been 2 fatalities in a week, leading to the closure. The melt of deep winter snowpack was delayed due to a cold spring, and now the rivers were raging as the summer temperatures hit and drove snowmelt runoff (another sign of more climate chaos).

We hiked up the Slate river valley road, which was closed, and came to the top, where a wall of snow formed a bowl at the base of the mountains (a cirque?) of Baldy. We managed to walk about a mile on that mini-glacier before turning back in exhaustion.

After getting tired of being dusted out of our campsite by the July 4 crowds of tourists, we drove over the mountains towards Aspen on a “shortcut” US Forest Service Road – my bones are still vibrating – where we stopped at high mountains lakes for gorgeous day hikes and dog swims.

We watched the US Women’s World Cup victory in Basalt Colorado, and upscale suburb of Aspen.

We then headed northwest, through Rifle, Colorado (home of Trump’s Secretary of Interior), north to the White River National Forest, past Dinosaur National monument and the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area and on to the Star Valley in Wyoming (just south of Grand Teton National park – those photos there in a subsequent post).

Some pics:


_DSC5670 (1)

_DSC5664 (1)


National Recreation Area

Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area

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Our Love To NoLa, As Barry Approaches

July 12th, 2019 No comments

Climate Chaos Just Beginning

A photo expression of our love to NoLa, as tropical storm Barry approaches (and the climate deniers again lie to the public):

Primarily, it takes a whole lot of denial: (from the New Orleans Museum of Art)



And architecture and street life, unencumbered by liberal false modesty:




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Murphy DEP Failing To Respond To Toxic Algae Crisis

July 9th, 2019 No comments

DEP Must Adopt Stricter Water Quality Protections

But DEP Hasn’t Even Restored Christie Rollbacks Yet

A Modest Action Agenda

[Update below]

NJ’s largest recreational lake, Lake Hopatcong – among several others – is closed due to a toxic algae bloom, see:

The algae bloom is caused by a combination of climate change, excessive nutrient & sediment pollution loads, and failed DEP regulatory policies.

DEP lacks adequate regulations governing land use, development, stormwater, water quality, septic systems, agriculture, and forestry.

Worse, DEP lacks any strategy, comprehensive plan, or enforceable regulations to address climate change, that we know will impact water resources (i.e. DEP rules mandating greenhouse gas emissions reductions or methods to adapt to climate change).

The Christie DEP not only denied climate change, but actually rolled back DEP regulations that were designed to protect water quality, including Highlands septic density, stormwater management, flood hazard, and stream buffer protections.

After the Legislature vetoed the Christie DEP septic density rollback, the Murphy DEP effectively revoked that already invalidated rule, but has yet to address other significant Christie DEP rollbacks.

Before we get the lame attempts at suggesting weak “reforms” (e.g. stormwater utilities) from the usual lame suspects (e.g. Highlands Coalition), we thought we’d lay out a serious reform package.

So, here’s a short to do list for DEP to respond to the current crisis and prevent or reduce the likelihood of future disasters.

1. “Benchmark” other State Lake Management – Water Quality Programs

One of the strongest lake water quality management programs in the country is Lake Tahoe.

NY DEC is also planning major new regulatory protections for Lake George.

DEP should review these models and adopt the strictest water quality and land use standards out there.

2.  Restore and Fund DEP’s Lakes Management Program

DEP used to have a stand alone Lakes Management Program that provided a priority focus on lakes. The program monitored water quality, provided science to support DEP planning and regulatory programs, and provided funding for water quality controls.

That program was basically eliminated and folded into the voluntary Watershed Planning Program.

DEP needs to restore and fund that program.

3. Impose a Moratorium On Logging

DEP is currently conducting several logging projects in NJ forests, including Highlands forests.

Despite the fact that logging has significant negative environmental impacts, logging projects are not subject to DEP regulations governing freshwater wetlands, stream buffers, stormwater, Flood Hazard Act and Highlands Act protections (e.g. steep slopes, vernal ponds, buffers, et al).

DEP must close those loopholes.

For example, NY State DEC is planning to adopt stricter regulations to protect Lake George water quality. The first time on the list of new regulations is logging:

  • Regs already require conservation plans, but approved by outside parties.
  • New regulation will require LGPC or delegated municipality to approve logging plans before activity occurs
  • Logging regulations not well understood or followed: Enforcement more common than compliance
  • Maintain existing standards, achieve improved results: Less violations, better practices on the land

DEP should impose a moratorium on all proposed and current logging projects until new rules are in place to protect water quality and address climate change.

4. Restore and Expand Stream Buffer Protections

Vegetated lands adjacent to streams, i.e. “stream buffers”, reduce the volume of and filter stormwater runoff, protect water quality, reduce flooding, and provide excellent habitat for wildlife.

The Christie DEP weakened existing protections of those buffers, by reducing the width where disturbance and development were prohibited from 300 o 150 feet, and by making a series of complex technical regulatory changes that served to protect water quality.

DEP must repeal those Christie DEP rollbacks and expand and strengthen stream buffer protections (as well as related protections for vernal pools and steep slopes.)

5. Repeal and Strengthen Stormwater Management regulations

The Christie DEP rolled back existing stormwater management rules.

The Murphy DEP, instead of repealing and strengthening those rollbacks, recently adopted new stormwater management rules that further weaken protections.

This must be reversed.

6. Repeal and Strengthen Flood Hazard Act Regulatory Protections

The Christie DEP rolled back existing Flood Hazard Act “stream encroachment” regulatory protections.

The Murphy DEP must repeal those rollbacks and strengthen current requirements.

7. Enforce “Total maximum Daily Load” Requirements

Under the Clean Water Act, when a waterbody fails to meet water quality standards, it is legally considered “impaired” and must undergo additional stricter requirements under a cleanup plan known as a “Total Maximum Daily Laod” (TMDL).

A TMDL establishes a science based enforceable numeric pollution diet, including daily limits on pollutant loads, both from point sources and non-point runoff.

DEP has failed miserably in the design, implementation, and enforcement of the TMDL program, particularly at lakes.

On an emergency basis, DEP can revoke and strengthen all the weak Lake TMDL’s, particularly for nutrient and sediment pollution.

8. Mandate Septic Management Districts and Septic Maintenance

A significant source of nutrient pollution in lake watersheds is overdevelopment and failing septic systems.

Septic systems must be properly designed, maintained, and regularly pumped out in order to be effective.

The location of septic systems with respect to proximity to surface waters is also important.

DEP regulates all of the above, but current regulations are far to weak and do not mandate septic pump-out or restrict proximity to streams and wetlands.

DEP can adopt emergency rules to strengthen all these existing weak septic programs.

9. Enforce Regulatory Requirements To Leverage Investments in Environmental Infrastructure

DEP enforcement of land use and water quality regulations is weak, and it has eroded over the last decade, especially after 8 years of the Christie administration.

DEP does not enforce what are known as “narrative water quality standards” or water quality standards for wetlands.

Furthermore, DEP enforcement against public entities is almost non-existent, due to the politics of local control and the concern about increasing local property taxes and/or user fees.

Finally, DEP enforcement is completely divorced from the Environmental Infrastructure Trust Program, which finances improvements.

DEP should integrate enforcement with NJ EIT, in a way that forces investments in necessary water quality infrastructure upgrades.

10. Mandate Consideration of Climate Change In DEP Regulatory Requirements & Local Land Use

Climate change is projected to increase temperature and rainfall frequencies and intensities.

Those projections reveal that current DEP and local land use controls are severely deficient.

Current DEP regulations  fail to even consider climate change.

As a first step, DEP can mandate the use of the 500 year design storm as a surrogate for increased storm intensity.

There are many other technical improvements to address climate that are beyond the scope of this brief note.

11. Mandate Water Quality Retrofit Of Existing Development

Existing development is causing the excessive nutrient loads that are driving the toxic algae blooms.

Yet DEP water quality regulations do not apply to existing development.

That must change and retrofit requirements but be mandated.

12. Regulate Agricultural Non-Point Source Pollution

Agriculture is a major source of non-point source water pollution (from application of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides and sediment runoff), but is exempt from DEP water quality regulations.

That must change.

This is a serious reform agenda.

We strongly urge the Murphy DEP to act on it and environmental groups and the public to support it.

[Update – I want to provide another example of gross mismanagement by DEP.

DEP adopted a “Lake Hopatcong Water Level Management Plan” back in 2011.

Here is how that plan evaluated water quality issues.

First, on page 10, note that DEP considers water quality solely from the perspective of “high productivity” exclusively in terms of supporting fisheries:

The ability of the lake to support these predators owes to its high productivity resulting in a strong forage base of fish such as alewife. These forage fish have little difficulty adjusting to the water level in the lake as it is raised or lowered. Lake Hopatcong is designated as FW2 Trout-Maintenance in the New Jersey Surface Water Quality Standards (N.J.A.C. 7:9B). This designation means that water quality in the lake is good enough year-round to support trout, though reproduction of trout in the lake does not occur probably due to the lack of suitable substrate.

Second, note that – over the objection of local advisory committee members – DEP limited the plan to “quantity issues only” and eutrophication was not even considered as a water quality issue. Absurdly, DEP claimed there would be no impact on phosphorus concentrations from withdrawing over 1 billion gallons of water!:

Water Quality

Some CAC members questioned whether the effects of a lowered water level in the Lake has water quality or ecological impacts in the Lake. These members requested that studies to be performed to quantify these effects. Readers should understand that the Lake Hopatcong Water Level Management Plan is intended to address quantity issues only.

Lake Hopatcong is currently listed as impaired for pH and Mercury. Mercury is the result of atmospheric deposition and altering the water level will not adversely affect concentrations of Mercury in fish tissue. Similarly, altering the water level will not affect its pH. Lake Hopatcong had previously been listed as impaired for Phosphorus. The Department has prepared a total maximum daily load for Phosphorus and the Lake Hopatcong Commission has prepared and is implementing a water quality restoration plan for the Lake. Reducing the water level in the Lake will not impact Phosphorus loads and concentrations in the Lake.

The exact impact of any water level fluctuation cannot be determined without detailed hydrography and substrate analysis. The biological effects of a lower lake level will depend on the severity, timing and duration of low water events. Shallow water areas are generally important for fish spawning, nursery and refuge. However, in large shallow lakes fluctuations in water level are common and the established community of fish and plants are well adapted. Fish in a lake environment will adjust to short duration changes water level by simply moving with the littoral, or near shore, zone as water levels fluctuate. The same is true of submerged aquatic plants which will grow in areas where light now penetrates to the bottom due to the lower water level.

“Well adapted” to toxic algae?

Shallow water, light, and water temperature has no impact of algae? (is that “high productivity”).


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