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Christie Dumps Enviros from D&R Canal Commission

Date : Thu, 27 Sep 2012 11:12:14 -0400

For Immediate Release
September 25, 2012 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

Christie Dumps Enviros from D&R Canal Commission

The appointments office has now released who will be replaced by the new appointments to the Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission (DRCC).This confirms our concerns that the Governor is trying to transform the Commission into a rubberstamp for his agenda.The Governor is trying to stack it by removing people who opposed his plans to get rid of the Commission and push out members.Alison Mitchell who works in environmental policy professionally is being replaced.Commission chairmen John Loos is being replaced most likely because he opposed getting rid of the Commission and the administration's Bull's Island clear cut proposal.David Knights is a developer who has been on the right side of many issues and they are pushing him out as well.Appointments to the Commission are important because the body helps operate the Canal Park, which is a State and National Historic District visited by 1 million people a year, and oversees land use decisions that impact the State Park and the water supply for 1.5 million people.After trying to abolish the Commission and being stopped by the Legislature, we are concerned these appointments will be used to rollback protections for the Canal, as we have seen done in the Highlands region.

"He has removed from the Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission commissioners that have stood up to protect the Parks from development and that have critized the administration's plan to clear cut Bull's Island.These Commissioners have all spoken out to keep the Commission in place when the administration called for it to be abolished.Since Governor Christie could not get rid of the Canal Commission he is now trying to do it through his appointments," *said Jeff Tittel, Director of NJ Sierra Club*. During their confirmation hearing, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee need to question these appointments not only about the Bulls Island clear cut plan but the Master Plan for the Park itself, park privatization, and the role the Commission should play in reviewing development applications that affect the park and its viewshed.

"Even David Knights, a developer, is being pushed off because he stood up to protect the Commission," said Jeff Tittel. Within the next two months the Commission will be voting on a proposal by the DEP to clearcut trees in the northern portion of the Bull's Island State Park. After a tragic accident last year that resulted in the death of a camper, the DEP closed down the Park's camping area and instead fo allowing it to remain forested and serve as a Natural Area, they want to clear cut and replant the area.However critical species use the area for habitat and loss of forest cover here would result in sedimentation impacts to the Canal and Delaware River. We are concerned that these appointments are part of the Governor's ongoing attack on the Commission.In December 2010, DEP Commissioner Martin recommended the board be abolished under Governor Christie's Executive Order 15.The Legislature fought back to keep the Commission in place.In June 2011 the DEP tried to install a new executive director instead of allowing the DRCC to do an independent candidate search.The DRCC also asked the Attorney General's office to appoint legal representation to the Commission if the DEP and Department of Treasury did not place the new staff member on the payroll.In the past Commissioners have been independent and now Governor Christie is trying to push them out and replace them with individuals who will rubberstamp his rollbacks to protections along the Canal. Having an independent regulatory land use program and board is critical not only for water quality but also for properly dealing with land use issues that affect the canal and the 400-square mile watershed.The Commission ensures any new development projects are consist with the Park's Master Plan, including no increase in pollution of waterways, no increased stormwater discharge or flooding, and impacts to the visual and historic resources of the Park. The Commission also holds and monitors conservation easements for stream corridors prohibiting any future development, a land preservation technique that involves no expense to the State.Currently the Commission has preserved and monitors over 5,000 acres of riparian buffers in the drainage basin of the canal. The 70 mile canal spans 22 municipalities in Mercer, Hunterdon, Somerset, Middlesex, and Monmouth counties.Fifteen of these municipalities and Mercer County have adopted resolutions opposing the elimination of the DRCC. Though we do not now many of the appointees, Julia Allen has long been dedicated to advocating for good planning and open space preservation.As Mayor and Councilmember of Readington she has been a true environmental champion.Recently she has been a leading voice in opposing legislation to allow clear cutting in State Parks.

"The DRCC has had a long history of working to protect the Canal and State Park and we are concerned Governor Christie is playing politics with the Commission and turning it into a rubberstamp for his anti-environmental agenda.Since he could not get rid of the Commission he is trying to undermine it with his appointments and we need the Judiciary Committee to question and scrutinize these appointments," said Jeff Tittel. BE A MEMBER OF THE DELAWARE AND RARITAN CANAL COMMISSION:

      Honorable Ed Trzaska, of Belle Mead, to replace Phyllis Marchand.

      Bruce D. Stout, Ph.D., of Delaware Township, to replace Richard C. Albert, resigned.

      Honorable Anthony J. Persichilli, of Pennington, to replace Mayor Douglas H. Palmer.

      Phillip Lubitz, of Kingwood, to replace Mayor David M. DelVecchio, resigned.

      John H. Gilbert, of Bedminster, to replace John Loos.

      Julia Cobb Allen, of Flemington, to replace Martin D. Jessen, resigned.

      Honorable Robert M. Bostock, of Lawrenceville, to replace David H. Knights. Mary Allessio Leck, Ph.D., of Kendall Park, to replace Alison E. Mitchell.

-- 
Kate Millsaps
Conservation Program Coordinator
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
609-656-7612
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