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Archive for the ‘Pinelands Commission’ Category

The Disappearing Mountain

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017
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Gully at Forked River Mountain

There are a number of large hills in the Pine Barrens that some of us locals love to call mountains. Their names vary, from Jemima Mount, to Apple Pie Hill, Devious Mount, the Forked River Mountain, and Mt. Tabour. The chance to step out above the treeline and peer over the vast forests of the Pinelands National Reserve is an experience not to be forgotten. The peaks of these “mountains” were caused not by tectonic activity, but by the deposition of river gravel, laid down during the middle and late Miocene (between 15-million and 10-million years ago) by rivers that formed as sea levels declined and re-exposed much of what is South Jersey. (1) These rivers brought gravel and deposited those soils along much of the central and northern Pinelands forming what is known as the Beacon Hill Formation.

Erosion at Jemima Mount

Although these peaks have survived for millions of years, they are now experiencing anthropogenic impacts that dwarf the natural forces of erosion. Off-road vehicle drivers have begun tearing into the slopes at an increasing rate to challenge their machines against the land. This pernicious activity has cut deep gullies into most of the highest hills of the Pines and denuded large percentages of their slopes of vegetation which exacerbates the natural processes of erosion. These are places that offer an irreplaceable experience for Pinelands residents and visitors and the threat of their disappearance should be taken very seriously.

Unfortunately, this threat has not been broadly addressed by the State with two important exceptions. Rob Auermuller, the superintendent of Wharton State Forest, took action and with the help of volunteers gated and blocked off-road vehicles from entering Jemima Mount last year. Also in Wharton, former Lieutenant Ranger, Greg Langan, made the same effort for Apple Pie Hill in the 1990s to stop destructive ORV use at that iconic location.  Their efforts have paid off and both locations have been steadily improving and healing from the damage that was done. Soils have stabilized at Apple Pie Hill and vehicles have ceased all activity at Jemima Mount, leaving a chance for the slopes to naturally stabilize there as well.

©Albert Horner

We are asking the Director of Parks and Forestry, Mark Texel, to take this threat seriously as well. He should act quickly to implement the recent Pinelands Commission resolution for Wharton State Forest that would protect future areas from this type of degradation. This unanimously approved resolution will address one of the most serious threats to public land in the National Reserve, but it needs to be implemented first. The public’s land should never be left to fend for itself by those who are trusted and paid to protect it.


Contact Mark Texel and ask him to begin implementation of Pinelands Commission Resolution for Wharton State Forest in order to protect the critical natural and scenic resources of the Pinelands National Reserve.

Mark Texel – Director of Parks and Forestry – Mark.Texel@dep.nj.gov  

Links

Pinelands Commission Resolution for Wharton State Forest

http://www.pinelandsalliance.org/downloads/pinelandsalliance_1593.pdf

References

  1. http://www.state.nj.us/dep/njgs/enviroed/freedwn/psnjsurf.pdf

Water and Gas Don’t Mix in the Pinelands

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017
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The New Jersey Pinelands Commission approved two natural gas pipelines by a slim majority this year. They originally denied the first of these to come before the Commission, the South Jersey Gas pipeline, in 2014, but the governor and his allies replaced two key commissioners and the Commission reversed itself in 2017.  According to former New Jersey Governor, Christine Todd Whitman, the pipeline approvals “undermine” the Pinelands Plan, and “is contrary to what is in the charter for the Pinelands Commission and the protection for the Pine Barrens themselves.” Former Governor Whitman was interviewed by Pinelands Preservation Alliance about the potential pipeline impacts to the Pinelands in a Save the Source video, “Water and Gas Don’t Mix in the Pinelands,” released in October 2017.

Pipelines Threaten Drinking Water

See the video.

Not only does the pipeline approval run contrary to the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan, but it also threatens the integrity of the Kirkwood Cohansey Aquifer – a 17 trillion gallon aquifer that serves residents of South Jersey and feeds fresh water into the Delaware River.  A few miles of these pipelines are going to be under streams, rivers, and wetlands, and virtually their entire length will be sunk into the shallow aquifer.  The horizontal drilling process can easily cause materials and chemicals to contaminate the water or change the flow of water in ways that drain or damage surface water bodies.   There was a huge neurontin spill in Ohio a couple of months ago that caused two million gallons of drilling mud into a wetland, and the Ohio office for the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that it will take decades for the wetland to recover from this damage.

Not Jobs versus the Environment

Governor Whitman further adds, this issue is “not jobs or protecting the Pine Barrens. We can still have jobs. We can still have energy.  There are different ways of doing it, but we really ought to be very careful about endangering in any way such an important area. It’s also very much about protecting the water supply for literally hundreds of thousands of people which will become far more expensive if you have to put in any kind of plant or any kind of man made system to purify that water and recharge that water from the aquifer.”

Time and again residents and leaders of our state implore our elected officials to do what is right for the Pinelands, right for our water supply, and right by our laws by denying unnecessary energy infrastructure that threatens our natural resources especially our most precious resource – water.  Water and gas don’t mix in the Pinelands or anywhere in New Jersey.  The next governor and administration hopefully will hear the voices, understand the impacts, and follow the letter of the law in deciding on these matters.

To view Save the Source videos, visit www.savethesource.org.

Pinelands Watch Activist Network

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017
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Citizen protest during 2/24/17 South Jersey Gas pipeline vote.

On February 24th the Pinelands Commission voted to approve the South Jersey Gas pipeline demonstrating how far they have strayed from their responsibility to uphold the rules that protect the Pinelands.   This project, which is planned for construction in the protected Forest Management Area, is now in the courts pending appeals from the Pinelands Preservation Alliance.

Protecting the Pinelands and other natural places in New Jersey requires the joint effort of citizens, nonprofit organizations, experts and dedicated decision-makers.  That is why I hope you will join our activist network, Pinelands Watch.

Join the Pinelands Watch Activist Network

Citizens in the Pinelands Watch network are kept up to date on Pinelands issues, engage with local planners and officials, and advocate for Pinelands protections.  You will play a key role in advocating for the protection of the Pinelands National Reserve.

The network is organized by county and we are holding our first county meetings on March 20 and April 4 with more to be scheduled. Email katie@pinelandsalliance.org if you have a location where we can hold a meeting in your area.  Right now our focus is on the seven Pinelands Counties – Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester and Ocean.


Pinelands Watch Activist Training:

March 20th at 7 p.m.

  • Location: Ocean City Public Library, 1735 Simpson Ave, Ocean City, NJ 08226
  • Find this event on Facebook. Please share.
  • Please RSVP here.

April 4th at 7 p.m.

  • Location: Pinelands Preservation Alliance, 17 Pemberton Rd, Southampton NJ 08088
  • Find this event on Facebook.  Please share.
  • Please RSVP here.

The Pinelands Commission is straying from its duties to uphold the Comprehensive Management Plan. You, as resident activists, have the power to protect the Pinelands by holding the Commissioners accountable – it’s the only way.

Join us at the launch of the county Pinelands Watch network to collect resources for getting involved and to connect with other activists from your area.

At this meeting we will:

  • Cover the organization, appointment processes, and recent actions of the Pinelands Commission
  • Describe how Pinelands Commissioners are appointed
  • Discuss your priorities and what you need to see from your freeholders, the Pinelands Commission, and other municipal bodies.
  • Develop tactics and a plan to begin taking action on those priorities
  • Provide resources and information to help you in your actions

We will conclude by making calls and writing letters to freeholders and gubernatorial candidates to demand the Pinelands are protected properly.

Groundhog Day at the Pinelands Commission

Friday, December 9th, 2016
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Today is the 1st monthly meeting of the Pinelands Commission since the Nov. 7th Court decision that sent the SJ Gas Pipeline project back to them – stating that the Commission staff and the Board of Public Utilities had improperly approved the project without taking a full vote of the Commission.

Crowd at the Pinelands Commission in December 2013

IRONICALLY – 3 yrs ago today the Pinelands Commission held a public hearing on the SJ Gas Pipeline project when it came around the first time. Hundreds of people showed up to speak out against the project. The room was too small and many people were stuck in the lobby unable to get in the room.

During 2013-2014 over 20,000 people testified, wrote letters, made public comment and signed petitions opposing this project. Because we all believe in equal and fair enforcement of the rules that protect our land and water and air.

Then in January 2014 the Commission voted on the project and deadlocked 7 to 7 (1 Commissioner had to recuse himself, but that is another story). The South Jersey Gas Pipeline project failed. The Commissioners and the Commission staff clearly stated in many documents that IT VIOLATED THE RULES THAT PROTECT THE PINELANDS.


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So why are we still here?

SJ Gas keeps trying to find a way around Pinelands rules that have existed since 1981. Rules that clearly state infrastructure projects like this are not permitted in the forest area unless “intended to primarily serve the needs of the Pinelands” N.J.A.C. 7:50-5.23. These rules exist in part to prevent the Pinelands from becoming a super highway for gas pipelines and other infrastructure trying to get the coast or to another location. The Pinelands is a fragile, rare ecosystem to be valued and enjoyed – not a transit area.

In 2015 South Jersey Gas resubmitted the same application with “new” information showing that now it “meets the needs of the Pinelands”. This is the same project – we will not be fooled and we won’t be worn down by all the years of work that this project has already consumed.

Today so many people showed up at the Pinelands Commission’s regular monthly meeting that there was no room to park.  Pro-pipeline advocates valtrex packed the room. Pipeline opponents were crowded into the lobby.

How could the Commission not be aware that people would show up?

Why would they not have planned ahead?  It is like Groundhog Day – just like Dec. 9, 2013.

Today the Commission moved into closed session before public comment – and according to the executive director of the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions, everyone who was in the meeting room was asked to leave and more than 100 people were told they can go home and be called if they want to come back.

No matter what the Commission MUST vote on the project, there MUST be a public hearing and they MUST vote to deny the project. It isn’t the job of the Commission to determine energy policy or to support the re-powering of a power plant (that could be underwater in the next 50 years due to sea level rise anyway).

It is very simple. The project violates the rules and must be denied.  Learn more here. Sign up on our email list so we can keep you informed.

UPDATED 12.9.16 at 7pm:

PUBLIC HEARING ANNOUNCED
January 24, 2017 at 9:30 am

The Pinelands Commission will hold a public hearing on January 24, 2017 at 9:30 am at the Ocean Acres Community Center located at 489 Nautilus Drive, Manahawkin, New Jersey 08050.  Learn more on their webpage.

We are very disappointed that they are not holding the meeting in the evening.  It is completely unfair to people who work during the day or would need to find child care.  They know how many people are opposed to this project.

For people who can’t attend the public hearing you will be able to submit comments by mail or email.

Comments may be sent via the following:

Mail:   New Jersey Pinelands Commission
P.O. Box 359
New Lisbon, New Jersey 08064

Email:  info@njpines.state.nj.us

You can also attend the next regular Pinelands Commission meeting on January 13, 2017 at 9:30 a.m.  The Pinelands Commission Offices are located at 15 Springfield Road in Pemberton Township NJ.

Make sure you are on our email list so we can keep you informed in a timely fashion.

You can find information on the Pinelands Commission website about monthly meetings (including agendas) and public hearings. You can also sign up on their email list so you are notified of upcoming events. Here is their website.

Road Designations for the Pinelands

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016
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properpinelandspond

Pristine Pinelands Pond – Wharton State Forest

Cindy Pond - Wharton State Forest

Off-Road Vehicle Abused Pond – Wharton State Forest

The Pinelands Commission needs to designate which forest paths are and are not appropriate for motor vehicle use within the Pinelands National Reserve and they must start with Wharton State Forest.  The Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan gives the Commission the authority to do this. (more…)

Pinelands Preservation Alliance Releases Annual State of the Pinelands Report

Monday, December 22nd, 2014
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On December 15, 2014 the Pinelands Preservation Alliance (PPA) released its 2014 State of the Pinelands Report.  This past year has shown just how crucially the Pinelands depends on the support and will of two key players: the state Pinelands Commission and the governor of the day.  We discuss the South Jersey Gas pipeline issue at length in this year’s State of the Pinelands Report because it points out how Pinelands protections were almost subverted for a major development project and remain very much at risk.

State of the Pinelands Report_2014 cover imageThe report focuses on the state of Pinelands preservation and rates how specific actions of government agencies have either helped or harmed the Pinelands during the past twelve months. The report rates the actions of government officials and agencies that include the governor, Pinelands Commission, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), New Jersey State Legislature, local government, and other governmental agencies. Since the fate of the Pinelands rests primarily with decisions by government, the public needs a way to hold these agencies accountable for their performance through an annual report.

PPA believes there is real cause for concern in the actions of government agencies responsible for safeguarding the Pinelands.

South Jersey Gas Pipeline Still an Issue

The most well-know threat to the integrity of the Pinelands protection rules over the past year is the South Jersey Gas pipeline issue.  The good news was that in January 2014 the Pinelands Commission did not approve the special deal that was presented to authorize the pipeline in direct violation of the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP).  But the Commission’s vote was 7-7 — evenly split.  “That is cause for profound concern.  This should have been an easy decision since the CMP is not ambiguous in barring this kind of new infrastructure in the Pinelands Forest Area,” states Carleton Montgomery, PPA’s executive director, in his introduction to the report.

And the threat still lingers.  South Jersey Gas has stated in multiple forums that it intends to get the pipeline built, despite the Commission’s decision.  Shortly after the 7-7 vote the governor submitted two nominations to replace sitting members of the Pinelands Commission who had voted “no” to the deal.

Stacking the Deck on the Commission

“These nominations, which are still pending before the state Senate for confirmation, are a transparent effort to pack the Pinelands Commission with reliable ‘yes’ votes for a pipeline deal that directly violates the protections of the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan,” Montgomery explains.  “It is up to the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to stop this assault on the Pinelands and good government.”

“These nominations are an effort to pack the Pinelands Commission with reliable ‘yes’ votes for a pipeline deal that directly violates the protections of the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan.” — Carleton Montgomery, PPA

Despite a number of environmental setbacks, some good initiatives and outcomes came about this past year. The annual Pinelands Short Course sponsored by the Commission continues to grow in popularity. Since its inception the Short Course has provided a wonderful opportunity for people to learn more about unique natural, historic, and cultural aspects of the Pine Barrens. The Short Course is something that the Commission takes great pride in, and deservedly so.

The Commission also took action to prevent electronic billboard signs from being placed in the more environmentally sensitive areas of the Pinelands when it required Monroe Township in Gloucester County to change the ordinance that would have allowed their placement in these areas.

Crackdown on Illegal Dumping

This past year the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection launched a crackdown on illegal dumping with the support of the State order adderall Police and Attorney General’s office.  According the DEP this program has resulted in 28 enforcement actions and more than $450,000 worth of pending fines.  Strategically deployed motion detector cameras have been set up in select parks and wildlife management areas to help catch violators.  The DEP manages over 813,000 acres in the state of New Jersey with the largest tracts of lands being in the Pinelands.

Funding for Open Space

This year’s report also recognizes the great work of the state legislature to pass a measure allowing New Jersey residents to vote on funding for preserving parks, open space, historic sites, farmland and flood-prone areas.  The measure passed overwhelmingly on November 4, 2014.  This was the 14th open space ballot question approved by New Jersey voters since the 1961.

But in addition to the issues surrounding the South Jersey Gas pipeline the report notes some important setbacks by municipalities and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The townships of Monroe, Stafford and Manchester continued to take actions to develop land that was previously preserved as open space for their residents.  In each case the proposed development will impact habitat for plants and animals and reduce the amount of useable open space for its residents.  These issues will only get more complicated as New Jersey becomes more populated.

The DEP has failed to release the updated Statewide Water Supply Plan.  The “current” plan is 18 years old despite the fact that five year updates are required by law.  The purpose of the Plan is to improve water supply capacity, investigate the status of major aquifers and plan for future water supply needs.  The time has long come and gone for this plan to be released.

MOA’s Weakening the CMP

One of the fundamental weaknesses that PPA identifies is in the way that the Pinelands Commission seems now to view is own regulations. Over the past several years, there has been a slow shift in philosophy from applying the Pinelands CMP as rules with regulatory teeth, to seeing the CMP as guidelines only, to be negotiated around in deference to developers and ratable-chasing local governments.

This disrespect for its own rules can be seen in the Pinelands Commission’s Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) process that it increasingly uses to allow private developers, municipal and county governments to avoid basic Pinelands environmental protections in order to promote profit-driven new development that does not meet Pinelands rules. This is the waiver method which the Pinelands Commission staff wants the Commissioners to use in approving the natural gas pipeline through the Pinelands Forest Area.

“This year’s report once again points out how the MOA process can be used for the wrong reasons and, in doing so, undermine respect for the Pinelands Commission and harm natural resources,” stated Richard Bizub, Director for Water Programs for PPA.

The past few years have cemented PPA’s conviction that if the Pinelands is going to survive as a unique place for future generations, it is going to require more than government regulations and PPA watching over the Pinelands Commission.

“The long-term survival of the Pinelands is going to take a citizenry committed to holding our elected and appointed officials’ feet to the fire. And perhaps most of all, it is going to require a new generation of citizen activists to accomplish this important task,” stated Bizub.

PPA hopes this eighth annual State of the Pinelands report will both inform and provoke, all with the good intentions of protecting the Pinelands for current and future generations.

The complete report is available and can be faxed or emailed upon request.  For more information please contact PPA at 609-859-8860.

 

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