Jaindl Warehouse/White Township, Forest, and Farms Destroyed
Dear Mr. Mahon,
I recall back in the 1990s, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection issued minimum acreage targets for preservation of farmland and natural and recreational areas.
The underlying concept was that there is a minimum amount of acres, in agricultural use, needed to sustain a viable agricultural industry in New Jersey. Like wise, NJDEP asserted there is a minimum of acres needed to maintain native specie natural habitat and recreational opportunities for the population . ( Sorry, I do not have these NJDEP minimum acres recommendations available to share.)
Since that time, preservation of lands has not gone well and NJDEP’s targets for preservation have certainly not been met, despite the Highlands Act basically preserving about 400,000 acres, in what is called the Preservation Area
The Highlands Act also put about 400,000 acres into the Planning Area of the Highlands. The Planning Area lands are quickly disappearing via residential sprawl, warehouses and solar installations.
The massive Jaindl warehouses, proposed in White Township, Warren County, would place an enormous complex on hundreds of acres of top rated prime farmland, far from the infrastructure needed by such massive projects. It will require the extension of the sewer service area into an area that has -through much local effort - been excluded from the sewer service area. This exclusion allows the area to remain in agriculture.
The owner of Jaindl knew very well that sewer service was not available when he purchased these tracts. There is no rule requiring that the owner be rewarded with a windfall by granting an expansion of the sewer service area.
Years ago, PRO partnered with the NJDEP to preserve the headwaters of the Buckhorn Creek in White Township. Jaindl’s warehouses will certainly degrade the Buckhorn Creek, as well as the Delaware River. The mammoth amount of impervious cover brought by millions of feet of warehouses, coupled with the inevitable discharge to the ground water of surface contaminants, into karst limestone topography, threatens the ground water and the drinking water of this rural area.
If the NJDEP allows the sewer district expansion - it will likely lead to further sewer expansions. If the now mostly rural two lane highway -Route 519 - is flooded with trucks and other vehicles heading south to access Route 78, the NJDEP will have released the growth monster on the remaining open space between White Township and Phillipsburg. Phillipsburg is a small city in the region, less than ten miles south from the proposed Jaindl warehouses.
The Highlands Act in many ways furthered the 1990’s realization of NJDEP that a minimum number of acres are needed to maintain a viable agricultural industry, specie habitat for native species and recreational opportunities for its citizens. But the Planning Area of the Highlands remains vulnerable to unbridled development. The stretch between Phillipsburg and White Township is split between the Highlands Planning Area - west of Route 519 and the Preservation Area - east of Route 519. This stretch of Planning Area lands is still primarily used in agricultural and has many undeveloped natural areas.
It is incumbent on the NJDEP to see the larger picture and be cognizant, in its decisions, of how expansions of the sewer service area will compromise the natural features and agricultural operations in the Planning Area on the western side of Route 519. The adjacent Preservation Area to the eastern side of Route 519 is also consequently likely to be degraded
For all these reasons it is imperative that the NJDEP reject the Jaindl warehouse sewer expansion.
One thing we’re not getting any more of is land - especially prime soil agricultural land.
I want to take a moment to focus on the continuing overall loss of agricultural lands and habitat for native species, as well as recreational opportunities.
White Township and adjacent Harmony Township are among the largest agricultural zones, with the best soils in the state. Yet, by some odd perversion of public policy, NJBPU is incentivizing solar panels on farmland. 600 acres of the NJDEP designated natural heritage priority site - (Garrison Road site) -the Harmony Grasslands with a great potential for nesting and over wintering grassland bird species- is under contract for a solar array and power stations.
Many more acres in White Township, as well as forested tracks, are being or will soon be converted to solar.
Yet, we all know that carbon capture is one key way to address global warming. We need our forests and farms for this very good reason -carbon capture, plus for specie habitat - and local food production. With supply chain back ups throwing a light on shortages of all kinds, the importance of the preservation of the local agricultural lands for food production, in the future, cannot be overstated.
And let’s ponder the fact that more than 3,000,000 ft.² of warehouses recently built in the Phillipsburg area were not incentivized to install solar on the roof!!!. Sad but true: Solar is incentivized on prime farmland but not incentivized on giant new construction, with acres of roofs.
At this moment, i appeal to the New Jersey Department of environmental protection for leadership to save our planet, by saving our farms and forests, from the scourge that is really devouring what’s left of rural New Jersey.
Comments by Michael King, President/Chairman Phillipsburg Riverview Org