Minutes: December 5, 2011

Call Meeting to Order

Craig Williams, Environmental Commission (EC) Chairman called the meeting to order at 7:40 p.m.

Statement of Compliance

Pursuant to the Open Public Meetings Act, Chapter 231, P.L. 1975 adequate notice as defined in Section 3D of Chapter 231, P.L. 1975 has been facsimiled and mailed from the Vernon Municipal Center to the New Jersey Herald on July 18, 2011. Notice is also posted on the bulletin board and filed with the office of the Township Clerk.

William BeckerA
Beverly BudzP
Michael CheskiP
Helena HolmesP
Heloise RuskinP
Diane WexlerP
Craig Williams, ChairmanP

Also Present

Mayor Vic Marotta
Aida Cahill, Recording Secretary
Guests from Tennessee Gas Pipeline:
Mark Hamarich, Project Manager
Stephen Weems, Lead Environmental
Mike Lennon, NJ Land Agent
Joe Vinyard, Hatch Mott MacDonald
James Johnston, Esq.

Salute to Flag

The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Craig Williams.

Public Comments

There were no public comments.


Mr. Williams showed a power point presentation of photos taken at the Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP) construction site. The areas of utmost concern included the following:

  • An estimated 55,000 trees harvested of marketable timber, with an estimated value of $16,000,000.
  • Vast area disturbed for 30in. pipe.
  • Destruction of wetlands.
  • Source of oily substance.
  • Reforestation

Questions and Answers

Mr. Williams spoke regarding the soil coming down off the ski slope and being deposited onto Rt. 94 during the heavy rain events in August 2011. Mr. Williams questioned how this would be avoided in the future. Attorney Johnston responded that TGP has permits for the activities on those lands and that the permit conditions have been complied with. Mr. Johnston advised that there were no citations of any violations of those permit conditions, and that TGP is continuing to look at the causes of the erosion on the mountain. Mr. Johnston further advised that Hatch Mott MacDonald (HMM) had been assisting with doing that. Mr. Vinyard from HMM explained that permit conditions were met by placing breakers on the steepest sections, approximately 35 ft. apart, and certain breakers that took additional water during the rain events, were reinforced. A rock wall was also placed at the bottom of the hill. Ms. Budz questioned what the turnaround time would be for help to arrive if such an event were to happen when the pipeline company was not in the area. Mike Lennon stated that he would be staying in the area well into next year, and that the turnaround time would be approximately 24 hours.

Ms. Ruskin questioned why the EC had to report wetland issues to the DEP, if TGP was continually monitoring the construction site. Water and soil testing before and after construction was also questioned. Stephen Weems stated that he was not aware of any water or soil sampling requirements in the wetlands. Mr. Weems explained that there would be an environmental inspector onsite during the winter months to do routine inspections and monitoring of the right-of-way. It was noted that March thru June would begin reforestation, with planting of trees, wetland shrubs and plants. Mr. Weems further explained that monitoring would occur four times a year, for a minimum of three years. There would also be reporting to the DEP.

Regarding reports by the EC of oil, Mr. Weems stated that he was not aware of any oil and does not know where the source could be. It was noted that if the oil problem had been relayed to the pipeline company in advance of this meeting, it could have been better addressed.

Ms. Budz spoke regarding reused railroad ties and the possibility of invasive species being carried from one place to another. Mr. Weems explained that invasives are monitored.

Ms. Budz questioned how refueling of trucks takes place. Mr. Weems explained that there is a 100 ft. buffer required when refueling a truck.

Reforestation and the seed mix were questioned. Mr. Weems stated that once we go through a growing season, more seed mixes will be visible.

Mayor Marotta questioned what happened to the trees that were cut down. It was explained that some were chipped and some were cut and taken by the clearing contractor. The mayor questioned if the trees were sold. Attorney Johnston stated that the trees were sold. It was noted that there was a one-time timber assessment for this project.

Ms. Budz questioned where the hay came from that had been used by TGP. Mr. Weems stated that he didn’t know where the hay came from, but did say that they are required to use certified sterile hay.

Mr. Hamarich spoke about the area of clearing that had been done. Mr. Hamarich explained that there were some areas that were wider than others because of the extra workspace needed for the equipment that was used. It was further explained that when the first pipeline went in, in 1955, there were no environmental controls. Now, more space is needed to stay clear of wetlands.

Mayor Marotta asked the panel of guests to explain the reforestation process.

Mr. Weems spoke regarding the No Net Loss Plan. Mr. Weems explained that the process began with walking the entire right-of-way to evaluate the site conditions. Based on those site conditions, the types of trees to plant were determined. There would be approximately 1,210 seedlings, some containers and 208 burlap and ball type trees planted, per acre. Mr. Weems further explained that the TGP was in the process of contracting with a forestry firm, and planting would begin in March of 2012. Buying from local vendors was questioned by the EC.

Ms. Budz questioned what types of trees would be planted. Mr. Weems read a list of trees to be used. Ms. Budz suggested that these were not the types of trees that were taken from the disturbed area. Attorney Johnston stated that the No Net Loss Plan is for the reforestation of state lands. Mr. Johnston explained that the plan had been developed with the NJDEP after holding public comment periods in 2010, and now the TGP was executing on that publicly approved plan.

Mayor Marotta explained that Vernon has since had a change in government, and that part of the reason we have a new government is because we don’t feel as though we were protected the way we should have been, at the time the public meetings were held in Vernon. He explained that tonight’s session was not meant to imply any wrongdoing by TGP. The mayor went on to say that this meeting was an official way of asking for help in restoring the proper food sources for our local animals and that any assistance given would be greatly appreciated. Mayor Marotta further stated that he has had great interaction with TGP, and that the issues raised tonight are coming by way of request, not by way of demand.

Mr. Weems stated that the saplings had not yet been ordered and that he would take the list Ms. Budz offered. Attorney Johnston noted that the DEP would need to be involved in any changes to the Reforestation Plan. Mayor Marotta stated that we would do anything necessary.

Ms. Budz questioned how to move forward with the oily substance found in the wetland areas. Ms. Holmes questioned testing of the lake water. It was noted that TGP and Highland Lakes had been conducting some tests. Attorney Johnston made note that we do not know that the substance is oil, and the best approach would be to get environmental inspectors to do some testing.

Open Meeting to the Public

Lucas Scott, West Milford EC, requested that West Milford EC be notified when inspections were being conducted next year so that they could be involved in the inspection process.

Closed Meeting to the Public

Approval of Minutes

Regular Meeting Minutes from October 3, 2011 with amendment to Roll Call portion indicating the attendance of Helena Holmes and absence of Heloise Ruskin.

Moved: Diane Wexler
Seconded: Craig Williams
All members voted in favor.

Regular Meeting Minutes from November 15, 2011

Moved: Diane Wexler
Seconded: Mike Cheski
All members voted in favor.


There was a motion to adjourn at 10:00 p.m., with all in favor.

Respectfully submitted,
Aida Cahill, Recording Secretary
Minutes approved: 1-12-2012