14 Money Island projects threatened by federal budget cuts

Most of the infrastructure projects at the Money Island Marina community are developed and managed locally but funded through a combination of private and public funds. The most common funding formula is that we fund 100% of a project in advance and then the state uses federal funding to reimburse 75% of the approved costs. Since not all costs are refundable, it usually works out to something like a 50/50 split. We work with governments and other partners whenever possible to reach a level of cooperation that allows important projects to move forward.

While nothing is certain yet, this blog post is simply meant to build a list of the possible consequences of the Republican’s new budget slashing of environmental programs funded directly or indirectly through the EPA that would change Money Island New Jersey operating plan for 2017 and beyond:

  1. shoreline stabilization projects
  2. oyster reef recovery research
  3. dune building research
  4. channel dredging*
  5. roadway stabilization*
  6. waste water handling system
  7. boat pump out station
  8. boat ramp extension
  9. transient vessel dockage
  10. aquaculture education program
  11. waterfront development permits for aquaculture
  12. underground storage tank removal
  13. oyster safety monitoring program*
  14. overharvesting enforcement*

* These are 100% government controlled and funded, partially through EPA funds paid to the state.

We will continue to communicate with our partners as well as federal and state agencies to try to keep these projects on track. However, if the funding offer from federal government is withdrawn, we will likely be stalled here for an uncertain time.

Thanks LoBiondo for environmental support

lobiondo-at-mi

Congressman Frank LoBiondo has been a strong supporter of the Delaware Bay region, our environment and our businesses. This photo was taken on his recent visit to Money Island in August 2016 where he spoke about the difficulty in promoting our environmental interests in Washington. His efforts are largely responsible for the EPA-funded restoration projects here.

This week NJ.com recognizes LoBiondo as one of only a few Republican leaders nationwide willing to stand up to the to repeal environmental restrictions on the coal industry.

Earlier in 2016 the Congressmen met with me and a group of other concerned residents still fighting to settle Sandy insurance claims years after FEMA fraud admissions.

I am grateful for Congressman LoBiondo’s efforts and feel blessed to have him represent us in Washington DC.

NJDEP liens from prior property owners

I spent about an hour on Friday with a NJDEP official from the Bureau of Tidelands Management. There are vague stories that the prior owners of Money Island Marina did not pay the tidelands lease fees since the 1970s. What I do know is that when the prior owner emerged from the most recent bankruptcy, the NJDEP placed a lien on the properties. The language of the property lien makes it clear that it s due to actions (or inactions) of prior owners and not the current owner. We have been so busy with emergency Sandy repairs for the last four years (that are being worked out still), that I have had no time to work on it until now.

We understand that there are three types of NJDEP violations and one open investigation on these properties. At this point, I have to start with just one of them. The immediate first goal is to quantify and begin the process of paying off the old tidelands lease fees.

So I’ve spent a few hours this week beginning work on this project. The next step may involve a trip to Trenton for some in-person discussion. I will post again as BaySave makes progress.

Love Where You Live

Yesterday I heard an excellent presentation on behalf of the Cumberland County NJ economic development office for a project called “Love Where You Live”. I wrote to thank the presenter and followed with this comment:

For most all of my adult life I’ve been committed to improvement of our small rural community at Money Island. It started out with small projects like cleanup of road trash in the 1980s and then grew to other areas like shoreline stabilization in the 1990s. In the early 2000s I helped rally my neighbors to lobby various levels of government to construct a sea wall where I live (It was just completed 9 years after we initially organized a strategy for it). The project was cited as an example of public/private cooperation. During those years I developed an interest in community-based sea level rise response and have gained insights from other eastern seaboard communities in other states through my travel and involvement in these environmental conferences.

In 2010 I formed BaySave Corporation, a small but growing NJ charity focused on education and advocacy of bayshore issues. Both the NJDEP and EPA cited our exemplary work in living shoreline restoration but have put restraints our plans for oyster reef restoration and shell recycling from Pennsylvania. Simultaneously, I am working with several commercial watermen, aquaculturists and harvesters here to evolve our commercial businesses at Money Island for long term sustainability. Many people in government are supportive but there are still massive obstacles to overcome.

Then in March 2012 I was retained by a private investment group to prepare some financial projections about the economic future of our community. The results were shocking and much of the disastrous forecast in my 2012 report has in fact come true since then. Real estate values and local population have dropped sharply over the past decade. Some properties here were recently assessed at about 15% of their 2006 tax assessment level. Taxes and real estate related prosecutions against homeowners and businesses have increased sharply. Outside investors advised by the NJ League of Municipalities were not been able to make headway with local government that would have led to an economic redevelopment plan here. Last month I was surprised to learn that the State of New Jersey apparently has no programs or legal means to revitalize communities where the collective amount of government liabilities exceed the collective value of the community’s real assets (as is the case here at Money Island). I am currently working with Senator Van Drew’s office on this issue.

Local news organizations like WHYY Newsworks have portrayed my statements as “gloom and doom” and positioned them in direct contrast to Bob Campbell’s cheerleading positions for the future of the community. In reality, we are all working toward the same goals and need to work together on all these issues.

Now BaySave is preparing for a next round of financing for environmental projects that will likely involve some crowdfunding projects. Soon Nantuxent Corporation is expected to seek financing for aquaculture expansion here. As a CPA, I have a professional duty to explain the financial facts in as candid terms as possible. The financial picture here is not pretty. The 5-10 year future projections are even worse. The longer term forecast calls for our entire community to be inundated by water level rise and NJ and EPA regulations do not yet even provide any means that would allow for our continued existence. I am professionally bound to express doubt over the private or municipal prospects of our future as a going concern. Yet I’m frustrated by being labeled as the ‘naysayer’ simply because I conclude, based on the available data, that there is visible reason to express economic optimism.

In 2012, before Sandy, I proposed a possible plan for the sustainable future of our community that is endorsed by the majority landowner stakeholders at Money Island. The plan is based on state ownership of the land with leases to private stakeholders; a strategy that works well in other environmentally challenged communities. I shared that plan with Freeholder Director Derella and many others in government and business. Yet there has been no action taken in several years and so I have no reason to believe that we will move in that positive direction.

I would welcome any thoughts as to how I might be a more effective endorser for the community while upholding my professional duties for candid assessment of our financial future.

Certainly I love where I live. But that doesn’t change the fact that the scientific and economic forecasts suggest that we will face huge, unprecedented and difficult issues ahead.

Do you have a boat, motor or trailer to donate?

dry docked boats at Money Island MarinaBaySave, a 501(c)(3) organization and a New Jersey registered charity is looking for boat, motor and trailer donations for upcoming programs.

Due to the way IRS requires a charity to value a donated boat for tax deduction purposes, BaySave can significantly increase the donation value of a boat because we keep the boat here for internal use rather than sell it like most charities do. Under IRS rules, the donor is not required to reduce the tax deduction to the amount realized in the boat’s sale. The end result is that the tax deduction can often be two or three times larger than the result from other larger charities.

If you have a boat, motor or trailer to donate, please let us know. For a detailed explanation of boat tax deduction rules, call Tony Novak CPA at 856-723-0294.

Vole control at Money Island

voleFor the past two years voles have devastated most of my restoration plantings and gardens at Money Island, New Jersey. The damage this past month (April 2016) was even worst than ever. It appears to me that we now have an epidemic problem. As a result, I’ve spent some time learning about voles. This is what I’ve learned in no particular order.  I’ve cut and paste some portions of the content below without citation and modified it based on my own observations.

In short, voles have been the most destructive challenge I’ve faced in 40+ years of gardening. The most devastating effects include chewing green crops down to the stem, eating every planted bean seed and onion set, chewing a hole in a mature tomato plant to kill it, chewing up entire flower plants, etc. It took a long time for me to determine the cause of the problem with certainty but now I am resolved to control the problem.

Observations

Voles, also called meadow mice, are small, ground-dwelling rodents that range from about 3-8 inches long with a body that is more robust than a mouse.  I first misidentified them as baby muskrats. They have relatively short legs and tails, and their body fur is brownish and black.  Our voles have a long snout and long claws.  Since voles are often mistaken for mice, one of the best ways to differentiate these two rodents is by tail length. Mice have long tails that are equal to about half their body length, while voles have shorter tails that are less than half their body length.

Vole species and behavior vary dramatically depending on location. The voles we here at Money Island have don’t seem to look or act exactly like any of the descriptions online.

My planting of living shorelines, landscaping, dunes, and various types of gardens and grassy areas has apparently promotes their expansion by increasing favorable habitat (as opposed tot he sand and mud that was there before). There is no sign that they swim or live in submerged areas (as opposed to muskrats).

Voles are prolific reproducers that can quickly colonize an area. To make up for a short life span of 16 months or less, voles can go from impregnation to baby-delivery in 21 days – cranking out three to six young at a time and up to 30 offspring per year.  Nests are most often found underneath a larger piece of wood left on a grassy area.

The best online article I saw about voles is http://icwdm.org/handbook/rodents/voles.asp

Control

One of the best ways reported to control voles is to have an outdoor cat. I prefer that, but I’m not always on site and Bruce doesn’t want to take care of a cat. Other communities near us have ferel cat populations but we do not.

 

Controls that did not work for me:

Mouse traps and rat traps (I tested at 6 different types and baits and caught a total of 1 vole, 1 mouse and one sparrow over two years)

Urine (this is a rural area and I tried peeing in the flower garden for a while)

Pepper – I tried red pepper seeds sprinkled liberally in the garden and ground up dried hot peppers

Raptor perch – Our area is heavily populated by eagles, osprey, hawks and owls. Installing raptor perches near the garden had no noticeable effect

MoleMax from Home Depot

Various types of small gauge fencing both above and below ground level.

a life-like plastic owl

 

Controls I plan to try this year (in this order):

Mouse traps baited with apple

Castor oil-based repellent.

Vole traps – see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ifq91dAQXIg for ones that seem to be most highly recommended. A local person suggested that minnow traps can also be used.

vole
this vole in my vegetable garden was caught in a mouse trap baited with apple 

I ruled out using Zinc phosphide baits. Zinc phosphide is highly toxic to birds, fish, and other wildlife if it is eaten. It will break down when it is exposed to water or moist soil in the environment. Residual phosphine given off will be broken down by air. There is no indication of residual fish or groundwater effect.