Wednesday, April 24, 2013

NJ Highlands Pipeline Reforestation Faulted

By Steven Aliano

An article in the New Jersey Herald details the faulty execution from the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. to properly reforest trees taken down to make way for their pipeline project completed in 2011 through Wantage, Vernon, West Milford, and into Ringwood. 

According to representatives of the state Department of Environmental Protection, the planted shrubs and trees were not appearing to be taking root, and while the hot, dry summer and deer foraging were partly to blame, the DEP concluded that Tennessee Gas did not do all of the replanting it was required to do.

DEP spokesperson Larry Ragonese was quoted as saying that when they allow companies the privilege of operating through the Highlands, they expect  the companies to replant whatever they have disturbed. Due to this shortcoming from Tennessee Gas, the DEP directed them to come back with a reevaluated reforestation plan.

A spokesperson for Tennessee Gas said that they have received the state order and are “reviewing” it but could not comment any further.

Here are the statistics: Tennessee Gas has said that they have planted 80,000 trees along the pipeline route. The DEP said that not one of the 1,440 required plantings were done in the Hamburg Mountain Wildlife Management Area in Vernon. Additionally, only 200 of the 2,500 plantings were done in the Bearfort Mountain Area of Hewitt State Park in West Milford, including a failure to use trees of the proper height and thickness.

In the revised plan, Tennessee Gas must indicate the number, size, and species of plantings when performed, in addition to benchmarked scheduling, completion date, deer browsing control element, and watering and monitoring element.

A recent walkthrough of the area by the Pipeline Walkers, an activist group, as well as a handful of Ramapo College students and New Jersey Herald reporters discovered that the perceived grassy meadow area had few saplings strewn about, some in weak condition while others appeared dead. Woodchips were also found in the marshy, wetland area adjacent to the pipeline area, as well as long, random stretches of tarp. The original plan also required Tennessee Gas to remove excess trash and debris from their workstations.

These lackadaisical efforts by Tennessee Gas really give them a bad reputation. It seems that any company of this magnitude never really keeps environmental efforts in mind when it comes to the rebuilding of nature in the areas of their construction, regardless of the fact that they are drilling through forests and wetlands areas. If they are going to go through with this giant, man-made scar in the middle of a natural preserve, the least they could do is rebuild once they are done, and follow the instructions by the DEP. The fact that they don’t, and don’t really explain why, is very annoying and frustrating.

Speaking of scars, in this article was a photo from Vernon of the meadow-like strip area explained previously. The caption reads that local residents call it the “scar,” where Tennessee Gas has cleared nearly 53,000 trees. It’s such an unnatural looking arrangement, and it is truly sickening to watch this all unfold. 

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