Tony Novak CPA will represent Baysave at the 2019 NEW JOBS PAC “The Voice of Business” Annual South Jersey Legislative Reception for the New Job Political Action Committee as a member of the NJCPA and supporter of its PAC. The annual event attracts local lawmakers to discuss local business and economic development opportunities and hindrances.
The group focuses on legislation to improve the business climate in New Jersey by supporting pro-business political candidates. Baysave is involved in revitalization of the bayshore economy and last year received funding from the NJ Community Capital THRIVE Grant to promote the local crab industry through a multi-state marketing cooperative. That effort was stymied by legal action by state government.
Baysave is focused on spreading the word about the huge growth potential of our local aquaculture industry, especially blue claw crabs and oysters at the Delaware Bay region. Advanced and technology open the door to a tenfold increase in total seafood production in the years ahead. That growth means moe infrastructure needed, more jobs created and more tax revenue for South Jersey government.
Oral argument is scheduled Monday June 10, 2019 at 2:00 PM before Honorable Judge Joseph M. Chiarello, JSC in Court Room 235, Cumberland County Court House, Broad and Fayette Streets, Bridgeton NJ for State vs. Tony Novak, Appeal #2-19. The state will be represented by Danielle Pennino, Esq. of the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office. The hearing is open to the public.
Because of the case’s potential impact on the future of social media marketing of the Philadelphia region’s “farm-to-table” and “dock-to-table” grower cooperatives, I have invited inquiries for an amicus brief (friend of the court) from other similarly situated groups. So far, no response. Preparing a brief is often an expensive undertaking and I suspect that not many grower and harvester cooperatives are aware of the potential legal threat.
The core issue is whether the state has the ability to hold off-site, online marketers who are not growers, harvesters, buyers or sellers responsible for keeping physical catch records of content they sell that might be related to New jersey fisheries. The language of the statute was written long before the age of social media when the word “marketing” and “selling” had the same implication and were typically under common management control. That is no longer true today. Now in the age of networked online “sharing” of other users content these two words have entirely different meanings. Sharing online content is not selling under most legal authorities. The goal of this legal action is to establish this as the legal standard under New Jersey fisheries management law.
The brief on behalf of Baysave’s controller Tony Novak is filed and the state has until May 28 to respond. The brief, the state’s response and the rebuttal documents will be available to the public.
In the realm of ‘firsts’, this was one that I could not have predicted. A surprise phone call came in Friday from our government relations liaison, a PhD with a background in economic development in the office of another PhD Director of Coastal Resiliency at Rowan University.
Government relations and coastal resilience: what a team! That’s exactly the combination we need around here.
It’s not appropriate for me to get into a “he said…” situation in a public blog post like this. But is is useful to say that I am learning about new areas of public policy that were previously invisible to me. The entire topic of what government needs to do in terms of long term planning largely escapes public view. I was introduced to the topics of what is a “win” in the eyes of government, its impact on future elections and even the survival of our economy and society. Simple topics like planning for enough food to feed ourselves is really a big deal. Yet it isn’t something that makes the newspapers every day.
At the end of this call I felt more confident of the role that Money Island will play in the future as the region’s seafood landing port. Many shore towns will need to dissolve: “strategic retreat” is the popular phrase in public policy discussions. Yet some seaports will need to remain open for our survival. We will see a deeper channel for even larger oyster boats. Heavy duty commercial docks for the expanding aquaculture industry are already in the works. Loading dock, refrigerators and freezers need to be upgraded. The seawall project will be continued. We are one of the chosen few ports that will be supported; even at the massive costs required to adapt to climate change and rising tides.
In the end, our tiny rural seafood landing port will see more than a tenfold increase in its economic contribution to the region. Of course, in a long term saga like this most of the story is yet to unfold.
The following is a republished book report of “The End of the Line: How overfishing is changing the world and what we eat”.
University of California Press
Date of Publication:
Date initial reading/review:
October and November of 2010
Location of physical book:
Baysave lending library book shelf
Review / margin notes:
75% of the world’s fisheries are fully exploited, over-exploited or depleted.
Demand continues to grow sharply.
Commercial fisheries use modern “fish-killing machines” (p 42); technology creep increases catches over time actual catch is 8 times the declared amount (p 48)
recreational fishing is 30-50% of total catch (p 274)
dredging damage: hard substrate bottom produced greater variety of species (p 55)
over-fishing is 1000 times more dangerous than drilling – Han Lindeboom
Orange roughy naturally outlives humans but few live to sexual maturity now (p 93)
“The trouble is there is not enough fish for everyone. It does not matter what system you have.” Gislason (p 247)
By-catch and Waste by-catch is 1/3 of total worldwide per UN Food & Agriculture Org. Only 10% of total fish killed is consumed as protein by humans
breakdown of menhaden use: 34% for feeding fish, 29% of hogs, 27% for poultry, <10% human and other uses tuna by-catch (p 211)
Fisheries Management comments on fisheries management (p 100) – fisheries are managed to preserve jobs – current overall worldwide management system is a direct cause of over-fishing irony of government’s fish monitor boat (p 99)
– US has several management successes: pollock in Alaska, shrimp in Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic scallops, herring, black bass, striped bass.
– European Union Common Fisheries Policy is the worst management program
– examples of “garbage in / garbage out”; Canadian cod management in the 1980s “A scientist’s first duty is to the truth. His secondary duty is to the public interest and his third duty is to the minister.” – Professor John Shepherd of Southamptom University in England. scientists who manage fisheries get offended (p 216)
“Everywhere in the world the fisheries manager is there just to perform the traditional role of keeping the fishing industry happy”. (p 219)
quota management (p 235)
Conservation amount of ocean for conservation (p 262)
No take zones work (p 269)
4 year ban on herring was successful (p 64)
Aquaculture fish farming is the fastest growing industry (p 291)
– commercial growing will save blue fin tuna (p 303)
– short comparison to land-based agriculture learning curve (p 326)
Failure of Subsidies (p 136)
“The only equilibrium in a subsidized system is zero fish. The system is set up to fail necessarily. Randy Myers, Newfoundland (p 133)
“So what lies at the root of a democratic politician’s impulse to dish out subsidies? First is a disgraceful need to buy votes with other people’s money, often dressed up as the redistribution of wealth. Second is the misguided belief that subsidizing fishing is somehow investing in the industry. In fact, in a hunter-gatherer economy, you invest only by leaving the resource alone. The way to defeat subsidies in well-governed countries is to create transparency, a free press, and proper scrutiny by public auditors’. (p 140)
– subsidies create a mathematic model that must fail.
ownership of the sea issue (p 151)
“tragedy of the commons’ concept published in Science (p 154)
Consumer Issues labeling (p 200, 281)
Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) eat / don’t eat list (p 285)
Certification of fisheries works – eventually 6% of world’s fisheries will be certified sustainable
– eat more blue whiting; low in PCBs and dioxins or antibiotics
Conclusion “the time has come to change the laws of the sea so that they are more like the law of the land.”
“You have to be willing to write off one of the three dimensions â€“ ecological, economic, or social â€“ to solve the problem of sustainable fisheries management” – the conclusion of UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) at Rome conference
“The idea of leaving part of the sea alone is very simple. It cuts across the ideas of traditional scientific fisheries management with its impressive-sounding professionals telling us how much they know”. (p 269)
Amount of ocean needed for conservation: 10% to 50% depending on goal (breakdown on p 262) – consumer environmentalists are effective (p 324)
“sustainability is part of the overall quality standard the top eateries should be hitting”. (p 191)
Environmental education is effective “It strikes me that one ways of feeling less concerned about one of your fellow creatures is to not give it a name”.
Yesterday, April 2, 2019, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order 63 establishing new regulatory principles to foster economic growth and government efficiency and protect the environment, health, safety, and welfare of New Jersey’s residents and communities. The executive order acknowledges that “low-income communities are often subjected to further disadvantages by the lack of attention towards “Environmental Justice,” which includes, at a minimum, ensuring that residents of all communities receive fair and equitable treatment in decisionmaking that affects their environment, communities, homes, and health, and incorporating such considerations into the regulatory process”.
Ironically on this very same day lawyers working for the state of New Jersey’s Attorney General’s Office announced plans to take additional legal action against Baysave’s over our plan to remove boat docks and unpermitted structures. Again, like prior actions, they don’t object to the compliance and restoration plan itself but rather they are not happy with the pace of our progress or the delays in obtaining funding for the work. Meanwhile, specific unnamed individuals within the NJDEP have reportedly worked to block our efforts toward approval of projects that would achieve environmental compliance.
The pace of environmental compliance progress here at the bayshore is dependent on the availability of funding, suitable weather conditions, available contractors and appropriate equipment. We are moving as quickly as possible under the current circumstances. The constant legal attacks by the gang-ups of the NJDEP with the Attorney General’s office continue to erode the welfare of our community and undermine our efforts toward environmental compliance and sustainability.
Money Island and its working waterfront businesses are located among the lower working class income sections of New Jersey in rural Cumberland County. Watermen here typically do not have access to the economic, educational, or technological resources that people in other areas take for granted. Our local governments, community organizations and businesses are no match for the awesome powers and unlimited budgets of the out-of-sync state lawyers and disorganized policymakers in Trenton. The state has proven again and again to be unable to effectively address corruption and incompetence within its ranks. The result: those within the poorest communities become victims of government’s abuse of power.
Baysave representatives have called, written and emailed Governor Murphy’s office about the apparent mismatch in government actions and resulting injustice inflicted on the businesses at Money Island. Last month Baysave’s Tony Novak submitted public comment to Governor Murphy’s executive order on environmental justice to the NJDEP’s Office of Environmental Justice. No response has been received other than an acknowledgement of receipt of the comment. Yesterday we asked Baysave’s government relations liaison and proposed compliance project engineer to please step up their efforts to establish communications with state government on Money Island permitting and sustainability planning. Obviously there is a serious disconnect on the progress of what is theoretically possible and what is actually happening.
The Governor’s new executive order becomes effective June 1, We will likely be involved in communicating with the Attorney General’s office and the Commissioner of the NJDEP – two of the state officials charged with responsibility for carrying out this executive order – about the observed actions in violation of this state policy. Meanwhile we have asked our government liaison and civil engineer to step up efforts to communicate with government to curb the next round of proposed government abuse of power.
The executive order states “we should also strive to identify ways to maximize regulatory efficiency by simplifying and streamlining the public’s ease of access to the machinery of government and to enhance the ability of regulated communities to communicate and interact with the regulatory agencies that oversee their actions, professions, occupations, and endeavors”. Yes! That’s exactly what we’ve been talking about! The complete lack of communication and mismatch of planning between the state, county, local government and community groups like Baysave is a disaster for our community.
We must do better. Baysave remains committed to getting state government to work with our communities and not against us.
This is a draft copy of part 2 of a two part response to a request for comments to the environmental justice executive order 23 issued by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. The final compiled and submitted comment is available here.
Statement of Tony Novak, Money Island, New Jersey
I’ve had an unfortunate history of exposure to environmental injustice by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and, more recently, the New Jersey Attorney General’s office. The purpose of this writing is to supplement a verbal statement I gave on March 11 at a Listening Session focused on Governor Murphy’s Executive Order No. 23 on environmental justice. My stories below offer timely comment in response to the “Environmental Justice Executive Order No. 23 Guidance” that says (emphasis added):
“New Jersey’s low-income communities and communities of color have been exposed to disproportionately high and unacceptably dangerous levels of air, water, and soil pollution, with the accompanying potential for increased public health impacts. In addition, E.O. 23 recognized that communities that are disproportionately affected by environmental degradation often face other serious problems beyond environmental issues, including health risks and housing challenges”.
The Guidance cites the EPA definition of “fair treatment”:
“Fair treatment” means that no group of people should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, governmental and commercial operations or policies. The examples listed below clearly show that the state has not met this standard of fair treatment. My examples show how the NJDEP is placing an unjust and impossible burden of compliance on the people most damaged by climate change effects at a time when we are least able to raise the funds necessary for legal representation to address these attacks and to meet the state’s expensive land use permitting fees.
The location of all of the examples is Money Island, Downe Township, Cumberland County, New Jersey, a small rural community noted in the Department of Community Affairs’ Municipal Revitalization Index as a low income and otherwise disadvantage community.
This listing of examples of environmental injustice intentionally omits names, dates, site references and case numbers. Those details have already been provided to appropriate investigators.
Rejected bribe attempt
My first unfortunate exposure to NJDEP injustice began in 2010 when a woman who did not know me came to my house to dispute the verbal instructions I was given by other NJDEP officials and our local building inspector. I was fixing a broken dock and bulkhead. A short time later, maybe 2-3 weeks, a man came who obviously knew who I was said he could fix it with a direct payment to him. I reasoned that there was no way he could no of my predicament without ‘inside’ connection to the NJDEP person who visited me earlier. He specifically said that he represented the NJDEP and that the payment must be in cash. He did not give an amount that I was supposed to pay. I recognized it as a bribe and said that I would have no part in that scheme. A neighbor later told me that he was facing the same type of attempted bribe solicitation. That combination of interactions led to my application for a “Zane exemption” to avoid the need for permitting. That application was eventually denied, several years later, for the implausible reason that me and all my six neighbors moved our bulkheads from their original position. Our former State Senator wrote a letter asking the NJDEP commissioner to open a line of communication to negotiate this misunderstanding. I challenged the plain lack of credibility of the NJDEP excuse with a higher level official. He did not dispute my points said he would get back to me. He never did. He was then transferred to another job and says this matter is no longer in his jurisdiction. Over the years I’ve told the story of attempted bribery to many people in government and law enforcement. Almost no one seems surprised and nobody ever offered to take any action.
The second disastrous integration came in 2012-2013 in the month before and after superstorm Sandy. I made a written proposal for the state to acquire land that I proposed to buy from a bankruptcy trustee for transfer to the state at my inherent cost. I saw this proposal as a way where the state might acquire open space property at a lower than market price and I might be able to recover what the former owners owed me that I wouldn’t otherwise recover in the bankruptcy. Officially the proposal was under consideration but in private verbal communications the NJDEP officials gave every indication that the proposal would be successful. The state kept the offer open for about five years before declining interest in the properties. They declined interest in the properties on the same day that they notified me of their intent to prosecute Baysave for violations on the properties offered. I referred to this as “NJDEP entrapment” in later court filings.
Participation with US attorney’s investigation
Following superstorm Sandy there were a handful of investigations of credible accusations of government fraud. A neighbor said that he was working with a US attorney from New York and asked if I would give a supporting statement. I gave an interview by telephone but never received interrogatories, a subpoena or anything else in writing related to this. The interview focused on an earlier death threat I received that claimed to be from a government official. I told the investigating attorney of the death threats I received, I gave her the caller ID where the one telephone threat, and indicated how they could verify my report with an earlier NJ state police report. I never heard anything more except that my neighbor said the US attorney decided to not prosecute the case “because there was not enough money involved”.
Ignoring erosion and altered water flow risk
From 2004 until 2014 I was involved as a citizen in the planning of a bulkhead intended to save our community from sea level rise. The original engineering plans were modified around 2015 “because we didn’t have the money”, according to the project engineer. A different private engineer said the altered plans would have devastating erosion effect on the adjacent properties (my properties) due to increased water flow past the adjacent property. I expressed my concerns in a formal timely comment on the project submitted to NJDEP. Initially the project engineer offered to add some features to mitigate the damage of the altered project design. Later he told me that he that a superior in government prohibited from speaking to me. NJDEP never answered the erosion risk inquiries that I submitted by certified mail and follow up telephone calls. The visible damage in 2017 and 2018 resulting from this lack of appropriate project risk management is shocking to those who have lived here for many years.
Manipulated water quality report
In 2014 the NJDEP issued an odd local water quality report. Having an educational background in natural sciences and some aspects of this water testing field, I recognized the testing methods as scientifically unsound. The preliminary issued report was loaded with factual errors. It appeared to be more political propaganda than science. I spoke with the report’s author several times who promised to discuss the matter after the final report was published. I arranged an interview for the scientist with a local reporter. The scientist then said he was forbidden from talking to me or any reporter about the false water quality report. Downe Township later hired its own researchers to oppose the obviously bad findings of the state’s report.
Denial of arbitration
NJDEP launched a series of ‘notice of violation’ complaints against properties owned by Baysave (later owned by me). Some of the complaints are valid and some are errors. Several people inside and outside of government told me that these matters are typically resolved through arbitration. I made a formal application for arbitration. The NJDEP denied my application for arbitration. The NJDEP official who runs the arbitration process said this was the first time in her long tenure that the state had denied an arbitration hearing. I do not know the reason that
Ganging up with the Attorney General
The NJDEP is using the virtually unlimited manpower, budget and legal muscle of the state’s Attorney General to bully me nd make it impossible to fight their past misdeeds and false claims. In late 2018 the NJDEP and the Attorney General teamed up to close our businesses because I did not have the money to advance pending land use permit applications. As a result, the six or several water-based small businesses that operated from our property are now closed. We were financially ravaged by superstorm Sandy and have not yet recovered. The timeline demanded for payment of legal permitting costs demanded by the Attorney General are impossible. We all agree that we all want the same outcome – full compliance with all land use permit regulations – but we disagree on the consequences of that process taking longer than the state demands. I am using this story as a textbook case of environmental injustice; bad behavior by government against its most vulnerable people.
Denial of participation in related programs
NJ Clean Marina Program – In 2014 I took a lead role in engaging local residents, business owners and visitors to participate in New Jersey’s Green Marina Program. It was important to our educational mission to change the culture and thinking of the local waterfront community to be more aware of environmental issues. It took about two years and cost Baysave and its neighbors about $3,500 to complete the program that transformed our local operations. At the completion of the final inspection, the program administrator told me they “had run out of funding” and could not certify us under the program. Two years later he admitter privately that an unnamed NJDEP oficial blocked our participation.
New Jersey Sea Grant Pump Out Station Program – The most basic need of humans in a waterfront community is a wastehandling system. In 2013 we patnered with professional firms firm to design a waste handling system like those used at similar marinas. We had trouble getting final approval to construct the system. In 2017 the program administrator admitted that NJDEP official blocked the approval but declined to name the official who took this action.
No response from state executives
I’ve personally made calls, emails, web forms and letters to the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, the Attorney General asking for a opportunity to address these concerns of unjust actions by state officials. None of my communications have been answered.
I am asking the Governor of the State of New Jersey to “call off the dogs” of hostile legal action by the Attorney General against the state’s most vulnerable citizens, a community noted as a low income outlier in the Department of Community Affairs’ Municipal Revitalization Index, struggling with the devastating effects of climate change. Instead, we should resolve this through negotiation. I am asking the NJDEP to come to the negotiating table ready to discuss sources of financial resources and a realistic timetable to reach the end result that we all want: full compliance with all land use regulations. This is a solvable issue. There is no need for the state to be ruining lives and businesses simply because of the slow pace of post-Sandy economic recovery here at Money Island. It is wrong and unjust for the state to treat those of us who contribute so much to the long term sustainability our environment as common criminals simply because we lack the financial resources to immediately meet state land use requirements.
On January 22, 2019 the U.S. Department of Defense issued a startling report of findings of the impact of climate change on the nation’s military bases. The issuance of report is required by law as part of the government appropriations process. Especially significant to us was that this new report clearly and decisively confirmed that more severe recurring flooding is a greater problem on the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. than previous reports predicted. (The report includes Virginia Navy facilities but apparently not Dover AFB that is closest to us across the Delaware Bay). In other words, our observations of more severe flooding are not ‘in our heads’, as some politicians contend, but are actually documented at most military bases across the country.
One of the most significant findings of the report was that frequent flooding is now an issue at 2/3 of the nation’s military bases and is already costing us more money and loss of use. The flooding impact now is at the level that was previously forecast for 2040. In other words, flooding is a more serious problem than earlier forecasts. This confirms our anecdotal observations on the Delaware Bay coastal shoreline.
In the past week other news reports said that the President’s office intends to hide or challenge this information by offering positions of power to a few people who oppose the prevailing scientific views on climate change. We would have dismissed this as the usual political bantering except that now the official government report now seems to be removed from the Department of Defense web site.
An adverse court decision yesterday poses a temporary setback to local small seafood businesses at the Delaware Bay. The ruling will be appealed and brought to the attention of local lawmakers.
Baysave, along with our partners, is involved in several projects to improve the financial and business security of the bayshore region’s watermen. We recognize that environmental sustainability goes hand-in-hand with economic sustainability of the local communities along the Delaware Bay. There must be a balance in considering the needs of all stakeholders. Imbalances historically lead to disaster in all types of ecosystems.
One sustainability initiative involves the need to bring local commercial crabbers access to wider markets and better product pricing. We initiated a number of projects: a shared use storage cooler, formation of a multi-state harvesters cooperative, and online lead generation systems to connect buyers and sellers through online and social media. In 2018 Baysave engaged two professional marketing firms and several volunteers to post social media messages across a broad multi-state network to promote crabbing. Direct-to-consumer sales result in significantly higher price to the crabber. Of course, this effort is not popular with seafood wholesalers, powerful regional businesses with a reputation of using ‘muscle’ to force the crabbers into submission. The wholesaler controls the volume of harvest, the price and often acts as banker for smaller crabbers. The local New Jersey crabbers compare their industry to the feudalistic systems of generations ago using them as indentured servants who never quite get out from under the control of their dealer.
In other states these independent seafood harvesters have increased sustainability by forming cooperatives. Baysave proposed this idea and received funding in 2018. Within days the wholesaler retaliated with a complaint. Fish and Wildlife demanded to see records of crabbers who provided crabs to us last fall. The state didn’t seem to recognize that we didn’t sell any crabs at all. Even though we explained that Baysave is an online lead generator for members of the cooperative, and not a party to any transaction involving crabs, Fish & Wildlife believes that current state law does not make a distinction. If we reveal the identities of the crabbers who participate in the cooperative, they would face retribution from other buyers. Past threats against the crabbers and co-operative members are well documented but not prosecuted.
The system of feeding sales leads to crabbers worked well until yesterday. Regional Court Justice ruled that the activity of Baysave’s volunteer controller falls under the definition of persons required to keep records. Novak admits to ordering and leaving cash at the marina in advance to pay for 4 to 5 bushels of crabs over the course of the season for personal consumption at barbecues but that he did not drive to NJ on weekends where the barbecues were rained out. He suggested that the crabbers attempt to resell the crabs to minimize the financial loss. He posted messages on social media offering the crabs that were available at the marina but had no involvement in either the buying or selling transactions.
A sign advertising crabs was posted at the marina, in fact has been posted for more than a decade, advertising crabs. Fish & Wildlife does not allege that Novak had any involvement in posting the sign but apparently the law enforcement officer feels that he should be responsible for the transactions that crabbers May have conducted for the crabs that he originally purchased for personal consumption. This legal issue has never before been raised for the many decades and millions of dollars that are caught, landed, and sold at Money Island. We suspect that Fish & Wildlife is acting to protect the large wholesalers at the detriment of independent crabbers who wish to advertise and sell their crabs. This posting of signs by crabbers at marinas is a common practice statewide. We are not aware that any of the other marinas that posted crabbers’ signs have ever been prosecuted.
Fish & Wildlife Division demanded records of these transactions if they occurred. Novak had no records and no information of whether transactions actually occurred. He called the people who he suspected might have bought or sold the crabs but all denied involvement. It seems clear that they are afraid of retaliation by the wholesaler if their name is reported. F&W issued a citation to Novak for his remote role in the cancelled crab deliveries but did not cite any parties on site in New Jersey.
Judge Van Embden ruled that Novak’s actions in advertising the crabs by sharing Facebook posts made him legally responsible for keeping records of the crabs despite not taking delivery of them and having no knowledge of the identities of the crabber(s) or details of possible transactions. Novak said that he intends to appeal the ruling based on both technical errors at trial and the merits of the case.
Representatives of the new seafood cooperative met with local legislators recently to discuss the need to prevent these restrictions on seafood marketing. We believe this court ruling may provide additional support for our request for legislative action.
Meanwhile, Baysave will resume discussions with our state legislators on the need to change the state law to protect off-site seafood sales lead generators. This will help our local crabbers who do not otherwise have access to the type of online marketing support that a cooperative can offer. The cooperative lead generation system is working well for crabbers in Delaware and Maryland. We think it is just a matter of time until New Jersey clarifies it’s applicable law. In the meanwhile, Baysave will focus only on out-of-state fisheries products and will not promote any New Jersey fisheries product.
Some local government officials who regularly battle with NJDEP call these “feel good bullshitting sessions”. They may be right. Even so, I think that participation in the process is important. The tension between NJDEP and its rural southwest communities cannot be overstated; the NJDEP is viewed by many as a step below the Jersey Devil for the Department’s history of corruption, bribery and slighting of rural communities.
The local meeting planned last week in Bridgeton was cancelled due to threatening weather. No rescheduled date has been announced. There is an alternate way to submit public comments. Written comments may be submitted through email until Friday, March 22 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I recommend that anyone with interest in NJ environmental issues may want to read the plan and take advantage of this opportunity to offer feedback. I expect that my strongly worded feedback will be published separately here on this blog in the next several postings.
Baysave was named as a defendant along with its controller Tony Novak in a lawsuit filed May 4, 2018 by New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. The lawsuit focuses on properties acquired for stabilization and sustainable aquaculture redevelopment after Superstorm Sandy under a proposed gift/sale to the state. The State does not allege that Baysave, Novak or our associates did anything wrong, but rather that we are the current titleholders of the distressed properties after the state decided that it did not want the properties. The stabilization, recovery, transfer, sustainability planning and compliance phases are taking much longer than expected and the issues are proving more complex than anyone had hoped.
The underlying issue is that the entire Money Island Marina campus, and in fact most of the small rural port community of Money Island, was built more than a half century ago without building permits, water well or septic system permits, land surveys, tideland leases, etc. What little documentation that may have existed based or is referenced in other documents now appears to be missing from the local government and county offices.
Before Superstorm Sandy, we agreed with the state on a solution to these issues. We assumed these properties would be acquired by the state like other local working waterfronts and that would transfer these issues to the state to deal with (as happened with other local marinas like neighboring Fortescue). Our verbal and written communications indicated that the state would acquire these properties at our cost and lease them back to local watermen just like Fortescue State Marina. But in the years since Sandy, none of this has actually happened. The state switched from being a cooperative partner with Baysave in our restoration efforts to being an unreasonable adversary. We don’t know why. We suspect the action is not taken in good faith.
The lawsuit comes down to this: the government has declined at least 15 permit applications, license applications or pre-application inquiries since Sandy and is now suing us because those same permits are not issued. It is, in our opinion, unconscionable for the state to be both the denier of permits based on false assumptions and simultaneously bring charges for failure to have permits that should have been addressed decades ago.
Most significant in this matter is the observation that the NJDEP abandoned its normal problem-solving mechanisms (pre-permit planning meetings, application review and comment and alternate dispute resolution) to opt for decline of applications and direct to lawsuit with no attempt at resolution. One NJDEP program director said that this was the first time in her career that she saw this pattern of action by her department and so she did not know what to advise.
Public officials like State Senator Van Drew wrote letters on our behalf to urge the state to act reasonably to communicate and negotiate a solution. Public support and political endorsements have had minimal impact.
We are asking the State to the legal prosecution of this case to allow time for consideration of the issues in dispute. We are asking the Governor’s office to force the NJDEP to discuss the errand assumptions underlying their complaints and discuss ways to resolve the problems that does not include suing the people trying to recover from Superstorm Sandy.