Companies Fined More Than $1.7 Million For Freshwater-Wetlands Violations
On July 20, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) imposed penalties totaling more than $1.7 million against two developers and a land-clearing company for separate violations of freshwater-wetlands regulations in Mercer, Morris and Salem counties.
"Freshwater wetlands play a vital role in protecting drinking-water supplies, providing habitat for significant populations of fish and wildlife, and preventing erosion and flooding," DEP Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson said. "The penalties imposed in these three cases should leave no doubt about the strength of our resolve to conserve New Jersey's environmentally sensitive wetlands and keep them healthy for future generations."
In Mercer County, the DEP assessed a $630,000 penalty against Beazer Homes, New Jersey Division, for multiple violations of a freshwater-wetlands permit the DEP issued in 2000 to allow development of Wellington Manor at Hopewell, a subdivision on Pennington Road in Hopewell Township.
The DEP determined that Beazer Homes developed two acres of freshwater-wetland transition areas above what the permit authorized, failed to construct three acres of freshwater wetlands to compensate for the loss of wetlands, failed to implement appropriate soil- and sediment-control measures on the site, and failed to file deed restrictions ensuring that natural areas would forever remain undeveloped.
In addition to the fine, the DEP requires Beazer Homes to immediately correct all violations and return the affected area to its original condition.
In Morris County, the DEP issued a $763,500 fine to developers Anthony and Golnaz Mortezai and Deerfield Estates/Resamir Estates for violating freshwater-wetlands and stream-encroachment permits on the construction sites of their Mount Olive housing development.
DEP inspectors found that the developers overcleared vegetation in exceptional-resource-value freshwater wetland transition areas, failed to implement approved soil- and sediment-control measures, failed to file required deed restrictions, failed to purchase mitigation credits to offset development of regulated areas, and submitted inaccurate plans when they applied to the DEP for permits required to develop the site.
The DEP has suspended the developers' freshwater-wetlands permit for permit-application inaccuracies and for ongoing violations that were degrading a high-quality waterway and causing sedimentation of local streams and water bodies.
DEP's enforcement order also requires immediate steps to prevent degradation of water quality and restore cleared areas to their original condition.
In Salem County, the DEP took enforcement action against Stella Oldmans, LLC, and Edward Stella Jr., of Oldmans Township, for clearing up to 15 acres of freshwater wetlands and rerouting a stream on his Route 130 property.
In addition to issuing a $378,000 penalty, the DEP ordered Stella to restore the site by regrading and replanting and returning the stream to its original location. Stella agreed to suspend clearing and grading activities at the site until the company submits a site restoration plan.
Additional information on the state's freshwater wetlands program can be found at http://www.state.nj.us/dep/landuse/fww.html. New Jersey also protects coastal wetlands under a different law (http://www.state.nj.us/dep/landuse/coast.html).
This article originally appeared in the 07/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.