Turtle Creek Supplemental Environmental Project, North Hanover Township, NJ
In February of 2006, a complaint was called into NJDEP’s Coastal and Land Use Compliance and Enforcement office alleging trees were being removed from a possible freshwater wetlands area in the middle of a farm property. An inspection revealed that the new property owner of this unmaintained farm cleared vegetation in an effort to expand the fields and improve the drainage systems. This activity was conducted within freshwater wetlands, freshwater wetland transition areas, and the riparian zone of an unnamed tributary stream, in violation of the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act and the Flood Hazard Area Control Act.
Additional inspections provided documentation of approximately 4 acres of disturbances within freshwater wetlands and 1.8 acres of disturbance within freshwater wetland transition areas. It was also determined that the entire riparian zone of the unnamed tributary stream was completely denuded of vegetation. Due to the loss of this vegetation, the recent tilling of the surrounding fields and a very large rainfall event, an enormous amount of silt from exposed soils entered into the recently disturbed unnamed tributary stream and freshwater wetlands. This caused an additional significant amount of damage to the watercourse and surrounding freshwater wetlands.
Over the course of a few years, the property owner allowed the area to regrow and stabilize. Approximately 90% of the vegetation that was removed had naturally re-established itself bringing the majority of the site back into compliance. As part of an Administrative Consent Order with DEP, the property owner was required to implement a SEP to provide immediate improvement to the affected areas, enhance the downstream water quality for a healthier ecosystem by better filtering sediment runoff and provide a better habitat for native flora and fauna that rely on these sensitive areas. The SEP included planting over 2,200 trees and shrubs within sections of previously maintained meadows, previously farmed freshwater wetlands, transition areas, riparian zones and even upland sections of the property. The SEP also involved the removal of Phragmites, an undesirable invasive plant that spreads rapidly and tends to choke out native vegetation and create a monoculture. The project will be completed by the end of 2015.