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Posts Tagged ‘Pinelands Commission’

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, cheap clomid 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.

Hope and Worry As Governor Nominates Six for the Pinelands Commission

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011
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by Carleton Montgomery, Executive Director

Governor Christie has submitted six nominations for the Pinelands Commission to the state Senate, which must confirm the nominations before they become effective.  The nominees are:

Candace McKee Ashmun of Bedminster, who has served on the commission since its creation in 1979 and is the only sitting Commissioner to be renominated.

De Arcy Rohan Green, chair of the Bay Head Environmental Commission.

Mark S. Lohbauer of Pennsauken, a consultant on municipal redevelopment with the JGSC Group of Merchantville and a former Freeholder in Camden County.

Stephen V. Lee, III, a cranberry grower from Chatsworth who previously served on the Commission for many years before being replaced by governor Corzine.

Richard H. Prickett, a retired high school science teacher and member of the Pemberton Township Council.

Gary Quinn, mayor of Lacey Township and a self-described developer of residential and commercial properties.

(The seventh gubernatorial position on the Commissioner is occupied by Robert Jackson of Cape May County, whose term does not expire until 2012.)

While I am grateful that the governor has acted – the Commission has been hobbled by vacancies for years – and most of the nominations are good choices, I have some serious concerns:

1.      All the nominees are Republicans, indicating that the governor rejects the idea that the Pinelands is a bi-partisan effort.  The greatest strength of the Pinelands Commission is its bi-partisan culture.  Past governors have usually nominated more people of their own party, but have also nominated some people from the other party, and they have resisted efforts to the turn the Pinelands into a partisan political issue.

2.      The governor has not said which member of the Commission he will select as its Chair.  This is an important position, and it is critical he choose a conservation-minded individual with the skills to manage its meetings, build consensus, and keep the Commission on course.

3.      Ed Lloyd, a prominent environmental attorney who has served on the Commission for several years, was not renominated – perhaps because he is not a registered Republican or perhaps for some other reason.  The loss of his experience and expertise is a real buy tamoxifen blow to the Pinelands.

4.      Through his many years on the Commission, Steve Lee was almost always an adversary of PPA and an almost virulent critic of the Pinelands Commission’s outstanding science program.  He also never seemed to accept that voting on matters that would benefit or harm his business constituted a conflict of interest.  We often found ourselves questioning his genuine commitment to the fundamental environmental mission of the Pinelands program.  We hope that if confirmed he will come onto the Commission this time around with a new spirit of putting conservation first and business interests second in his work on the Commission.

5.      We do not know Gary Quinn, mayor of Lacey Township, but I am concerned that he does not seem to have any record of environmental interests.  On the internet, one can find him defending the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant (which, despite its record of radioactive leaks into ground water and a cooling system that wreaks significant destruction of life in Barnegat Bay, does enable Lacey to have very low property taxes and provides good jobs to the area).

Whenever new people are appointed to the Pinelands Commission, we greet their arrival with hope and worry, since the Commission controls the course of development and conservation across the Pinelands.  These emotions are particularly intense now because the governor is nominating five brand new people – one-third of the Commission’s members – in one go.

For a variety of reasons, the Pinelands Commission has lost the initiative in Pinelands protection.   It has relegated itself to a reactive role in which it has repeatedly waived environmental protections for the benefit of the development schemes of ambitious builders and ratable-chasing municipal leaders.  It has shelved good smart-growth policy initiatives to focus on making ad hoc deals and loosening environmental protections.

PPA hopes the new Commissioners will help the rest of the Commission and its new Executive Director, Nancy Wittenberg, to take back the initiative and set a new, conservation-focused course.

 

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