Pinelands Commission Pipeline Approval Still Unpalatable to Conservationists, Even With New Off-Road Vehicle Map

Oct 04, 2017
Photo by: Pat Johnson The Pinelands Commission is charged with protecting the pristine National Pinelands Reserve.

The Pinelands Commission passed a resolution on Sept. 14 to adopt a map that shows the sand and gravel roads that are permissible for off-road vehicles within Wharton State Forest and sensitive areas off-limits to vehicles. It is up to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s park rangers to enforce the map and it has been sent to them for review. 

However, because the map was approved during the same meeting as the commission’s approval of the New Jersey Natural Gas Southern Reliability Link Pipeline, not all conservationists were pleased.

A spokesperson for the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club believes the resolution was passed to mollify those upset with the commission’s decision to approve the pipeline.

The SRL is a 30-mile pipeline that starts in Bordentown in Burlington County and, using 90 percent of roadway right-of-ways, passes through approximately 12 miles of the Pinelands Reserve. The pipeline passes through North Hanover, Upper Freehold, Plumstead and the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst to end in Lakehurst borough.

According to the Sierra Club, the SRL pipeline will cut through environmentally sensitive land, threaten communities and cause more climate change impacts by promoting fracking and the additional burning of fossil fuels that impact clean water and promote climate change.

The pipeline will also promote sprawl and overdevelopment at the shore and near the Pinelands, according to the Sierra Club.

“The approval of the pipeline ... will have much more destruction than ORVs,” said New Jersey Sierra Club President Jeff Tittel.

Soon after the Sept. 14 Pinelands Commission meeting, Tittel stated, “The Pinelands Commission’s passing (of) the off-road vehicles resolution to protect the Pinelands is really a ‘green scam’ because they did it the same day as when they approved the SRL pipeline. This resolution helps set up a plan and a process for a map to keep these vehicles out of environmentally sensitive areas, but it still needs work.

“The Pinelands Commission actually conducted proper planning and outreach during the development of this resolution and kept the public involved, but they didn’t do that with the SRL pipeline approval,” said Tittel. “They should have taken as much consideration with the destructive pipelines through the Pinelands as they did with they ORV map resolution. The damage from ORVs can be fixed, but once a pipeline is built, there will be irreversible and permanent destruction to our forests, wetlands and wildlife, while threatening our clean drinking water. This is a shameful betrayal of trust for the people in New Jersey and puts the future of the Pinelands at risk.”

According to the New Jersey Natural Gas website, the pipeline will benefit people in Monmouth, Burlington and Ocean counties because it will be a second pipeline in case of problems with the only other pipeline to service 83 municipalities. “We confined the pipeline mostly to existing roadways to avoid preserved open space and farmland,” the utility stated.

The New Jersey Sierra Club and the Pinelands Preservation Alliance say the Pinelands Commission violated the Comprehensive Management Plan because it states that utilities constructed within the Pinelands Reserve must benefit primarily those living in the reserve.

— Pat Johnson

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