Post-Sandy conflict continues at the NJ bayshore

Renewed threats by NJDEP while waiting for infrastructure updates at Money Island NJ

In the months after Superstorm Sandy many of the government agencies, environmental groups and local citizens pulled together here at the NJ bayshore. We attended countless planning meetings discussing priorities and a game plan toward environmental and financial sustainability. For us here in Money Island that meant changing our game plan to aquaculture.

We never anticipated the difficulties that would follow: insurance fraud, denial of all government aid, and years of delays. Yet it seemed that all the stakeholders were willing to keep working to do what it takes to rebuild our community recognizing the reality of sea level rise and increased flooding. All o the stakeholders were working together except one: certain individuals in the NJDEP. Most NJDEP officers supported our recovery plans but a few emerged as antagonists.

Today I received another nasty-gram from one of the antagonists. I thought that we had reached an agreement last summer when I met with these officials. I agreed to a short list of immediate corrections and they agreed to be patient until the Cumberland County infrastructure upgrade plans were complete. Apparently not so. Today’s message threatens a number of more immediate actions with response times of 20 to 35 days. Last night we heard an update that the water and sewer project is moving forward, but we are still talking about years until resolution, not days.

This was the email I received from NJDEP today:

Dear Mr. Novak:

Attached is an Administrative Order (AO) issued by the Department for violations at properties owned by Baysave A NJ Nonprofit Corporation, including at Money Island Marina.   A hard copy is being mailed to you as Baysave’s  registered agent as well as to Baysave’s bankruptcy counsel.   

Please read the attached document carefully.  Contained within the enclosed document are instructions for requesting an Administrative Hearing.  Each statute cited has different timeframes within which the hearing request must be received by the Department and failure to request a hearing per the instructions will result in loss of your right to a hearing for violations pertaining to that statute.  The Department does not have the authority to extend those statutory timeframes.  Specifically, the timeframes are as follows:

  • For violations cited pursuant to N.J.S.A.  58:12A-10(d) and N.J.A.C.  7:10-3.5 et seq., as described in paragraphs 13, 15, and 30e of the attached AO, a request for a hearing must be received within thirty-five (35) days.
  • For violations cited Pursuant to N.J.S.A.  58:10A-10d(2) and N.J.A.C. 7:14-8.4 et seq., as described in paragraphs 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, and 30a through 30d of the attached AO, a request for a hearing must be received within twenty (20) days.
  • For violations cited Pursuant to N.J.S.A.  26:2C-1 et seq. and N.J.A.C. 7:27-8.3(b), as described by paragraphs 16 and 30f of the attached AO, a request for a hearing must be received within twenty (20) days.
  • For violations cited Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 52:14B-1 et seq., N.J.S.A. 13:19-18(b), N.J.S.A. 13:9A-9(d), and N.J.S.A. 12:5-6(e), as described by paragraphs 19, 21, 22, 23, 24 and 30g through 30l of the attached AO, a request for a hearing must be received within thirty-five (35) days.

Please reply to this e-mail so that I know that you received the document.  If you have any questions concerning the enclosed AO, you may contact Ginger Benckert of my staff at (609) 614-3655 or at ginger.benckert@dep.nj.gov.

Very truly yours,

Mary Simpson, Chief

Southern Bureau of Water Compliance and Enforcement

I always try to be positive and emphasize that we should all be working together to solve these environmental challenges. I also often remind government people that I came into management of this specific situation after Sandy and serve as a volunteer, not a paid employee, in contrast to the DEP officers. My response today:

Mary:

I received your email addressed to Baysave Corporation about violations at Money Island. Yes, addressing these issues remains our major challenge and the focus of our mission toward environmental sustainability.

As you heard in our last meeting, Baysave accepted the challenge of resolving decades of missteps by various public and private stakeholders at Money Island that became evident by the early 2000s. The total amount of property-based liabilities exceed the land value at Money Island by a factor of 10:1 so a private stakeholder solution is simply not possible. I’m sure you know that neither Baysave nor I created any of these problems but that we have worked very hard to resolve them for many years. In 2004 I proposed a public/private partnership to address the infrastructure issues at Money Island and in 2010 Baysave was formed as the lead organization for environmental sustainability.

Baysave’s trustees remain fully committed to resolving these issues as soon as humanly possible. We have raised tens of thousands of dollars since Sandy to address these and many other specific issues of concern. A large portion of our fundraising is for the purpose of paying for various state permits, applications and inspections. We have made significant progress so far toward environmental sustainability in the face of overwhelming challenges. Even since we met last summer, I have worked with various agencies and, as far as I can see, have taken every known path towards resolution of these overwhelming infrastructure issues.

I remain committed to resolving the remaining issues as soon as humanly possible. I hope you recall that when we met last I agreed to and followed through with all of the specific action steps you requested.

As far as the wastewater issues, various public officials have directed me to refer these questions to Mayor Campbell who has taken the lead on this issue. He has the authority to speak for all of Money Island stakeholders who share these same concerns. We are currently revising our wastewater handling plan and will continue to work with all authorities until the issue is resolved.

I am copying Mayor Campbell, State Senator Van Drew and Representative LoBiondo who lead the movement toward environmental sustainability here. We must continue to rely on the combination of public and private efforts to reach the end goal of a clean, sustainable and fully compliant working waterfront community at Money Island.

I also tried to reach Ginger Benkert as you suggested for further information, but the telephone number listed in your email appears to be an error.

We look forward to working with your department to resolve these concerns.

Tony Novak, CPA, MBA, MT

www.tonynovak.com

Mobile/Text: 856-723-0294

Skype: novak.tony

I continue to believe that sanity will eventually prevail in this battle and that we will reach a solution that works for all stakeholders. Baysave and the other NJ bayfront communities have a solid plan for recovery, compliance  and sustainability. We have the technology and the drive to transform into a clean water-based economy. Many other aquaculture communities up and down the east coast of the U.S. have already done it and serve as our models. All it takes is time and money.

 

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