Letters

Airport Objections

Sep 06, 2017

To the Editor:

The following letter was sent to the Office of Planning Advocacy of the New Jersey Department of State on July 28, 2017:

Your department is considering changing West Creek’s landing strip into a multi-faceted heavy industry airport by way of a CAFRA change. According to your definition: “Heavy Industry Transportation Utility Node means heavy industry (i.e. airports, seaports and rural yards), or utility facilities and activities that meet a regional need and that as a result of their vast scale or given the nature of their activities, cannot meet acceptable performance standards for locating in Centers.”

Perhaps you should give attention to the fact that West Creek, where the Eagles Nest landing strip is located, is only connected to the Garden State Parkway and Route 9, a two-lane highway that cannot be widened.

Therefore, to even consider such a move to a “Heavy Industry Transportation Utility Node” is ludicrous. The village of West Creek has roughly 620 households, and there is basically no industry. It has always been a “bedroom” community. The same is true for neighboring Little Egg Harbor and Stafford townships, as well as Tuckerton, where senior citizens make up a large number of residents. These people came from northern New Jersey to spend the last years of their lives in peace and quiet.

The Eagles Nest landing strip is within the Pinelands Regional Growth Area of the Pinelands National Reserve, which is under the control of the Pinelands Commission. And the region toward Barnegat Bay is mostly wetlands and therefore is part of the Barnegat Bay Estuary. As a matter of fact, the area the airport owner wants to absorb for enlargement and paving purposes is near the Westecunk Creek and its wetlands. There are also cranberry bogs in the area that require clean water. The surrounding region of this airstrip is mostly classified by CAFRA as “Rural P4.”

Neither the Pinelands National Reserve nor the Barnegat Bay Estuary allows disturbances. Further impervious covers at the landing strip would add to runoff into the wetlands, down into Westecunk Creek, where residents have waited for over 10 years for dredging because they cannot get their boats out into the Barnegat Bay.

Although the Pinelands Regional Growth Area allows development only at the outskirts of the Pinelands, it is not allowed if it would harm critical habitats of any threatened or endangered species. Similarly, all development is supposed to be designed so it will not contaminate streams, wetlands or aquifers. As one now knows, large or small planes cause pollution, which disrupts the climate and endangers human welfare.

According to the New Jersey Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act, the law also protects transition areas or “buffers” around freshwater wetlands.

The state Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Land Use Regulations states, “Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act required DEP to regulate virtually all activities proposed in the wetland, including cutting of vegetation, dredging, excavation or removal of soil, drainage or disturbance of the water level, filling or discharge of any materials, driving of pilings, and placing of obstruction.”

The Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan provides that most development within 300 feet of wetlands is prohibited under circumstances where “a significant adverse impact is deemed to exist where it is determined that one or more of the following modification of the wetlands will have an irreversible adverse impact on the ecological integrity of the wetland and its biotic components including, but not limited to threatened or endangered species of plants or animals:

a. an increase in surface water runoff discharging into a wetland,

b. a change in the normal seasonal flow patterns in the wetland,

c. an alteration of the water table in the wetland,

d. an increase in erosion resulting in increased sedimentation in the wetland,

e. a change in the natural chemistry of the ground or surface water in the wetland,

f. a loss of wetland habitat,

g. a reduction in wetland habitat diversity,

h. a change in wetland species composition or

i.  a significant disturbance of areas used by indigenous and migratory wildlife for breeding, nesting, or feeding.”

The Pinelands Management Plan is of particular interest because it states that “no development shall be carried out by any person unless it is designed to void irreversible adverse impacts on the survival of any local populations of threatened and endangered plants.”

And the health of the human population must also be taken into account.

Margit Meissner-Jackson, chair

Sierra Club Chair, Ocean County

 

 

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