Bay Head Junction

New Jersey Transit should be required to do an Environmental Impact Statement prior to any construction. Read SBB’s testimony.

Testimony on New Jersey Transit Bay Head Rail Yard Improvements

Submitted by William deCamp Jr., President, Save Barnegat Bay

May 1, 2002

This testimony is submitted on behalf of Save Barnegat Bay, which receives support from over 1,200 families annually, in the matter of the proposed “improvements” to Bay Head Junction.

We strongly urge that an Environmental Impact Statement be required before this project is given any further consideration.

In approaching this matter, we would first like to deal with several pieces of mythology that have grown up about this project and its objectors.

This is not a NIMBY situation. This proposal is intrinsically linked to two questions of regional significance: (1) the water quality of Barnegat Bay, to which it is tidally connected via adjacent Twilight Lake; and (2) the electrification of the Jersey Coast Line for the sixteen miles from Long Branch to Bay Head.

– Save Barnegat Bay and virtually all other parties urging that an E.I.S. be required for this project are strongly supportive of mass transit. We only ask that the public have reasonable assurance that mass transit is operated in an environmentally sound manner.

– Although it should be of no relevance in this matter, we feel compelled to point out – only because so many persons have fallaciously implied the contrary – that not everybody who lives in Bay Head is a millionaire. Far from it. Bay Head Junction is surrounded by middle income neighborhoods as deserving of environmental protection as persons in every other income bracket.

– In addition to the permitting aspects surrounding this issue, we wish to remind all relevant agencies, as well as the public, that the question of whether this facility is built – as well as the crucial question of whether an Environmental Impact Statement is required – is not solely a matter of whether permitting requirements are met. It is also a matter of public policy. The applicant is not a private party; it is a public entity. Therefore all other agencies reviewing this matter ought reasonably to consider – in addition to all permitting factors – whether good or bad public policy is being proposed.

Our strong desire to see an E.I.S. performed for this project stems from several important considerations:

1- An E.I.S., in contrast to the current “Environmental Assessment”, would require that alternatives be considered. This means that NJDOT would be forced to consider the option of electrifying the Jersey Coast Line for the sixteen miles from Long Branch to Bay Head, a step that would be much less polluting than continuing the existing diesel powered line.

2- An E.I.S. would give a more complete picture of the degree of the current pollution at this site. This site has been the subject of rumors of major pollution for decades. An E.I.S. could determine on what activity public dollars could best be spent at Bay Head Junction. It could also help determine whether the New Jersey Department of Transportation has been a good enough neighbor to merit approval of the continuation of their diesel operation.

3- We take exception to NJDOT’s “trust me this time” approach, in which they justify their project by blithely claiming that it would ameliorate the rail yard’s substantial past environmental abuses. Past malfeasance should not be allowed as grounds for permitting a future activity. Rather past acts of pollution should be documented and remediated.

Given that the site is immediately adjacent to an environmentally sensitive estuary and wetlands; given that the site has been a polluting railroad yard for generations; given that the proposed construction is substantial and is likely to affect groundwater flows; given that the topics of wetlands destruction, endangered species, noise pollution, air emissions, light pollution, contaminated soil, and flooding, are all involved; and given that going forward with the proposed project will inevitably postpone the day in which environmentally preferable electrification is achieved; requiring an Environmental Impact Statement would seem to be a matter of basic prudence.

Thank you for your consideration of our testimony.

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