DEP Reaches Settlement Agreement with DeMarco:
Freshwater Wetlands in New Jersey's Pinelands to be Restored
(04/03) TRENTON - Settling
long-standing violations of the state's Freshwater Wetlands
Protection Act, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell today announced that A.R.
DeMarco Enterprises, Inc. will restore 22 acres of wetlands
that were unlawfully converted to cranberry bogs in 1998,
and will pay the state a $400,000 fine.
"Our settlement with DeMarco is the
final chapter in a story that began with egregious environmental
violations and ends with the restoration of environmentally
sensitive wetlands," said DEP Commissioner Campbell.
"Through the New Jersey Conservation Foundation's efforts,
this valuable Pinelands parcel is preserved for both the
enjoyment of residents and the benefit of the unique ecosystem."
"This is a strong and effective settlement
because it ensures that this large, environmentally significant
parcel will be restored to its original condition,"
said Attorney General Peter C. Harvey. "Our lawyers
in the Division of Law did an excellent job of supporting
the DEP to ensure that justice was served in this matter."
J. Garfield DeMarco converted wetlands
into cranberry bogs on 22 acres of land located in Woodland
Township, Burlington County. The property adjoins Wharton
State Forest in New Jersey's environmentally sensitive Pinelands.
DeMarco's cranberry bog expansion was conducted without
appropriate DEP permits as required under the state's Freshwater
Wetlands Protection Act. Upon discovery of the unpermitted
activities, the DEP issued DeMarco a Notice of Violation,
and in 2001 fined the cranberry grower $594,000. The DEP
also ordered DeMarco to restore two acres of disturbed freshwater
wetlands, or to apply for DEP authorization for conversion
of those two acres into cranberry bogs.
Concurrent with the issuance of the penalty
and order, DeMarco received two statewide general permit
authorizations that allowed the conversion of the 20 acres
of freshwater wetlands. DeMarco also submitted an application
for a third general permit authorization for the two additional
acres, which DEP denied.
In July 2002, under the McGreevey Administration,
the DEP issued a Notice of Intent to Revoke the previously
issued general permit authorizations as a result of environmental
concerns. DeMarco challenged the DEP's permit revocation
in the Office of Administrative Law, which is resolved in
the current settlement.
As part of the settlement agreement, DeMarco
must restore the 22 acres of wetlands to their predisturbance
conditions. DeMarco must submit a work plan for the restoration
to the DEP within 60 days of the closing of the sale of
the property to the New Jersey Conservation Foundation,
which occurred on December 31, 2003. Under the settlement
agreement, the completed restoration must occur within 18
months of the DEP approved work plan. Successful completion
of the restoration will be determined through a DEP inspection,
and must include an 85 percent survival rate of restored
vegetation three years after the work is done. DeMarco must
place $100,000 in an interest bearing escrow account or
deliver a performance bond in the same amount to guarantee
the completion of the restoration work.
In addition, the DEP and DeMarco agreed
to settle outstanding penalties and violations for $400,000.
The penalty will paid to the State of New Jersey in two
equal payments of $200,000, the first due by March 1, 2004
and the second due March 1, 2005.
The New Jersey Conservation Foundation
(NJCF) purchased the 9,400-acre DeMarco property for $12
million in December 2003. NJCF raised $5.2 million in private
contributions and secured a $1.5 million, low-interest loan
from the Open Space Institute for the purchase. They are
in the process of raising the additional $6.8 million needed
to pay off the outstanding balance of the purchase, which
will be paid off over five years. The DEP's Green Acres
Program is working with the Pinelands Commission to prepare
an application to the National Park Service to commit $600,000
in federal Land and Water Conservation funding to assist
NJCF in meeting its funding needs for this acquisition.
In addition, the Conservation Foundation plans to raise
an additional $3 million to create an endowment for the
property's long-term stewardship.
The settlement agreement between the DEP
and DeMarco is being published in the New Jersey Bulletin.
The anticipated publication date is February 11, 2004. There
is a 30-day public comment period.