Monday, February 11, 2008

New Jersey, prepare for more floods, courtesy of craven regulators

Environment News Service reports on a regulator caving in: The commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has revoked her own order issued little more than a year ago protecting stream buffers. These strips of grass, shrubs, and trees beside streams provide cooling shade and act to remove pollutants in urban stormwater, reduce erosion and stabilize stream banks.

The effect of this sudden reversal in New Jersey policy makes it easier to cut the widths of stream buffers in half - from 300 feet to 150 feet - allowing development in the area surrounding the most sensitive streams, lakes and rivers, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, PEER.

On January 24, Lisa Jackson, Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, DEP, rescinded an Administrative Order that she issued on January 2, 2007. The 2007 Order mandated that developers conduct a strict scientific demonstration using a specific technology to prove that any disturbance or reduction in the buffer widths along Category One streams resulted in equivalent protection before any construction would be allowed.

…The order was applauded by environmentalists but hated by developers, who wanted to build in the stream buffer areas.

…."Make no mistake, this is a major rollback of protections," said New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, noting that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is touting an addition of 900 miles of new Category One stream designations as a major environmental achievement. "This effectively rolls back 300 foot buffers to 150 feet," Wolfe said.

That's the South Branch Big Timber Creek in Camden, New Jersey, destined to visit Camden basements during the next heavy rain, thanks to the state's EPA. Photo by Milkbreath, Wikimedia Commons

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