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State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 22, 2004

Contact: Amy Cradic
(609) 984-1795

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.

 

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