Category Archives: Stephenson Park

>Middletown Still Kicking Around Shadow Lake Political Football

>I was glad to hear after last week’s Middletown Township Workshop meeting that nearly $2.7M maybe freed up soon by the state, for the long talked about Shadow Lake dredging project.

According to what I had been told of the meeting and a subsequent article posted on MiddletownPatch.com it seems that Middletown resident and NJ State Senator Joe Kyrillos (R-13) found a way to partially fund the estimated $4+M dredging project by co-sponsoring legislation that will provide funding through the state’s Environmental Infrastructure Trust (EIT) fund.
The legislation that originally created the Environmental Infrastructure Trust fund was intended to provide special financing, in the form of a low-interest loans to companies and municipalities looking to clean up environmentally contaminated “Brownfields” in order to return them to tax rolls.
Kyrillos’s bill that would provide funding for Middletown under the EIT, still needs to be voted on by the full Senate before moving onto the Assembly for approval and signature of the governor, which is not a given. I wouldn’t exactly call Shadow Lake an environmental “brownfield” that needs to be cleaned up so it can be returned to the tax rolls.
But what disturbs me here is the fact that Middletown Republicans are still playing the equivalent of political football with this issue and sending mixed messages with the intent on blaming state and local Democrats for delaying the dredging of the lake and contributing to it’s skyrocketing cost.

Officials ran into a project roadblock when the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) made it clear that, when removed, any dredge spoils gleaned from the lake would have to be transported to a safe, licensed off-site location, dried out and then taken to a legal dumping ground, Middletown Mayor Tony Fiore said.

Township Attorney Brian Nelson had said that where the township had no luck with the last administration’s state DEP officials, the new DEP principals seem more receptive. The township governing body is all-Republican, as is the Christie-appointed administration.

“We can’t do anything without permits,” he had said a couple of months ago at a Township Committee meeting. “But the DEP is working with us much better than it formerly did. Before it was clear they were not giving us permits.”

Now, knowing that the funds are being secured, Mayor Fiore said that the next step would be to go out to bid for the project.

“Thanks to the efforts of Senator Kyrillos the residents of the communities surrounding Shadow Lake can rest easier knowing that a project more than a decade in the making is nearing reality,” said Fiore. “In addition to the senator’s efforts in helping secure financing for this project, he has assisted the township with the DEP to find a qualified site outside of Middletown for disposal of the dredge spoils.”

It wasn’t Democrats that said this project was going to be an easy slam dunk just before the 2007 election and how it wasn’t going to cost residents a single dime (but proposed bonding for it) because local college students would perform surveys of the lake and other services for the township for free. And that the rest of the cost for the dredging would come from grants or planned to have the arsenic, heavy metal and carcinogenic contaminated spoils buried within Stephenson Park without proper permits from the NJ DEP. It was Gerry Scharfenberger and the rest of the Middletown Republicans who were attempting to secure last minute vote from residents who live around Shadow Lake by proposing such a plan.

Local Democrats want to see Shadow Lake restored but want it done smartly, cost efficiently and with in the law. The last thing Democrats or residents want is to clean up a lake only to create an environmental hazard somewhere else, namely Stephenson Park.
The NJ DEP was right not to issue permits for that and insisting that the dredged spoils be carted to a properly secured landfill.
And the following comment left on the MiddletownPatch article by a Mr. Dave Venture seems to agree:
Coming from someone who is an environmental professional who grew up on Shadow Lake and lived there for 22 years and still fish it weekly, I can tell you this issue has been twisted and misused by various media groups as well as private landowners on the lake . The lake has become naturally shallower in some areas which is normal succession for a man-made lake. The problem of increased vegetation is in large part not due to the depth of the lake. The lake is surrounded by residential development and Shadow Lake Village all of which contribute tremendous amounts of nutrient runoff to the lake in the way of fertilizers etc. The lake also sits in an area that was all farmland until the middle part of the 20th century. The groundwater may still be pumping nutrients from the historic farms into the lake contributing to the eutrophic environment. This is very similar to what is happening on a much larger scale in Barnegat Bay. The issue of depth of the lake and water quality/aquatic vegetation are two separate issues that have been blurred. If the goal is to make the lake deeper than I agree dredging is the only option. If the issue as they have proclaimed is to decrease the aquatic vegetation then dredging is not a cost-effective or ecologically sound solution. Green stormwater infrastructure and practices must be instituted to prevent the runoff that is making the lake an overly enriched ecosystem. State the goals clearly before dumping 4mil into a project.
So it’s about time now for Middletown’s “non- partisan” Township Attorney Brian Nelson and other finger pointers to point the finger at themselves. Too often Nelson acts like he is the 6th member of the Township Committee and gives bad, partisan advice that cost the town tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees because he has a vested interest Republicans maintaining control in town and it’s about time members of the Township Committee stop taking his poor advice.

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Filed under Brian Nelson, dredging, Environmental Infrastructure Trust (EIT) fund, Joe Kyrillos, Middletown Patch, NJ DEP, Shadow Lake, Stephenson Park, Tony Fiore