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.

 

EPA proposed budget cuts affecting the Delaware Bay

As far as I know, the EPA has apparently not commented on the authenticity of this budget proposal published in several newspapers. Senator Booker communicated some degree of doubt in a tweet yesterday. The line items most likely to affect us in the Delaware Bay region of New Jersey are highlighted. In most cases that are relevant to us, the EPA funds programs administered by the State of New Jersey so it is difficult to forecast exactly what the impact will be.

The program administrators I communicated with this week, mostly through social media, are seriously concerned.

Program 2016 2018 Change
SF Bay (EPA) 4.8 0 -100%
Great Lakes restoration (EPA) 300 10 -97%
Endocrine disruptors (EPA) 7.5 0.445 -94%
Enviro education (EPA) 8.7 0.555 -94%
Chesapeake Bay (EPA) 73 5 -93%
Puget Sound (EPA) 28 2 -93%
US Mexico border (EPA) 3 0.275 -91%
Radon (EPA) 2.9 0.505 -83%
Gulf of Mexico (EPA) 4.5 1 -78%
Environmental justice (EPA) 6.7 1.5 -78%
Small minority business assistance (EPA) 1.7 0.4 -76%
Climate protection (EPA) 95 29 -69%
Research – air climate energy (EPA) 92 46 -50%
Sustainable and Healthy Communities (EPA) 140 76 -46%
Brownfields (EPA) 25 14 -44%
Safe & sustainable water resources (EPA) 107 70 -35%
Research – chem safety & sustainability (EPA) 89 62 -30%
Lead RRP (EPA) 13.3 9.4 -29%
Leaking underground storage tanks (EPA) 11.3 8 -29%
Right to Know (TRI) (EPA) 13.9 10.7 -23%
Tribal capacity building (EPA) 14.4 11.8 -18%
Marine Pollution (EPA) 10.1 8.6 -15%
Compliance monitoring (EPA) 101 88 -13%
Civil Enforcement (EPA) 171 153 -11%
Diesel emissions reduction act (state grants) 50 0 -100%
Multipurpose grants (state grants) 21 0 -100%
Targeted airsheds (state grants) 20 0 -100%
US-Mexico border targeted watershed (state grants) 10 0 -100%
Beach water quality testing (state grants) 9.5 0 -100%
Radon (state grants) 8 0 -100%
Brownfields (state grants) 48 33 -31%
Tribes – air quality management (state grants) 12.9 8.9 -31%
Pesticides implementation (state grants) 12.7 8.8 -31%
Toxic substances compliance (state grants) 4.9 3.4 -31%
Wetlands (state grants) 14.7 10.2 -31%
Underground injection (state grants) 10.5 7.3 -30%
Drinking water grants (state grants) 102 71 -30%
Nonpoint source pollution (state grants) 165 115 -30%
Air quality grants (state grants) 228 159 -30%
Water pollution control (state grants) 230 161 -30%
Lead (state grants) 14 9.8 -30%
Tribal general assistance program (state grants) 65 46 -29%

First score for fishermen

News reports say that fishermen had a role in convincing Republicans in Washington to abandon HR 621 that would have led to the sale of 3.3 million acres to oil and gas drillers.

Compromise in the works for Delaware Bay oyster aquaculture

Jeff Tittel of NJ Sierra Club reportedly dropped threatened opposition to an aquaculture compromise bill proposed by State Senator Jeff Van Drew after the senator’s office agreed to hold public hearings on the issue.

The underlying issue is the use of specific Delaware Bay beaches designated by the state as oyster aquaculture culture. But the beaches are also used by migrating shorebirds and so some environmentalists wanted to keep the farmers off their oyster farms during the spring migration season. The farmers argued this was impossible.

On a larger scale, I expect that public opinion was that this issue was destined to be a compromise issue from the beginning. The only direct impact of the measure here at Money Island is that presumably some of the state’s aquaculture application procedures will evolve as a result of this new action. While we don’t grow oysters in cages on the beach here, we still must navigate a cumbersome and outdated  application process for other projects.

Leadership involves politics

In the past few weeks many of our nation’s business leaders and scientific groups have come together to issue boldly worded political statements. On June 28 most of the world’s leading scientific groups issued a joint letter to Congress. This week 146 silicon valley business executives issued a joint letter in collective opposition to an outlier candidate. There were many more similar small group and individual initiatives. The result is that the distinctions between data-driven and greed-driven public policy initiatives has never been more clear to anyone who takes the time to look. No doubt the timing of such actions was designed to combat the political spin being used to drive the Democratic and Republican Party national platforms this month.

But my point is that clearly some of our society’s true leaders are involved in influencing political opinion.

Two days ago I was criticized by a board member of an industry group that my public statements and positions are too political. The implication was that if I simply “toned down” and avoided talking about the important issues of our time, this would be good for my business and make me more palatable as an adviser to potential business clients. She meant well in offering me this feedback. She’s correct that it has become acceptable and normative to avoid discussing core issues of ignorance and greed. She’s right that I could likely fatten my own wallet by being politically neutral. But that doesn’t make it right. Leadership involves pointing out and denouncing the fallacies promoted by special interest groups as we see in the two examples above.

Taking on political positions is not a pleasant pleasant task but it is an ethical necessity. Leadership involves dealing with politics. It is time that anyone who considers themselves to be a leader recognizes and accepts this fundamental point.