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NJ Legislators Try to Halt Del Rock Wall Plan

Senator Oroho and Assemblymen Hal Wirths and Parker Space introduced identical bills in the Assembly and Senate to halt the NJDOT's Rockfall Mitigation Project in Knowlton and Hardwick Townships. This legislation is a direct result of NJDOT’s failure to conduct an New jersey politics 2 copy Environmental Impact Statement after the NJ Sierra Club requested for one and for the department’s lack of public input on the project.  S2863(Oroho)/A4601(Wirths/Space) prohibits DOT from taking certain action on certain rockfall mitigation projects and requires DOT to conduct analysis on project alternatives.

“Local state legislators are stepping up to protect the Delaware Water Gap from NJDOT’s giant rock wall project. This is a scenic and environmentally sensitive area and a gateway to a National Park. The Interstate 80 Rockfall project will not only be ugly, it will create more traffic, disturb threatened and endangered species in the area, and fails to include rock fall data that justifies the project altogether. NJDOT is a rogue agency that doesn’t listen to the public or town. That is why we need the legislature to step in,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “It’s critical for the state legislature to support and pass S2863(Oroho)/4601(Wirths). We should not be walling off the Delaware Water Gap.”

DOT plans to spend an estimated $58 million to build a series of high industrial fences to protect drivers from rock falls below Mt. Tammany in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and the Lower Delaware Scenic and Recreational River. The New Jersey Sierra Club issued a resolution to join Knowlton and Hardwick Township in opposition to the I-80 Rockfall Mitigation Project. The Department of Transportation is forming a Public Advisory Group (PAG) to provide input on the agency’s proposed I-80 Rockfall project. Several townships and elected officials have opposed the project and have attempted to sit down with DOT to find solutions that would be mutually agreeable. Instead, the PAG will not include elected officials.

“The NJ Sierra Club has asked for a charette-based, conflict mediated, deliberative process that involves all affected stakeholders. We believe that it is essential for everyone involved to have a voice and work together to choose the best option. NJDOT Building a Jurassic like fence that will only create more problems for the community and the environment. The millions of dollars appropriated for this non-essential project should be better directed to New Jersey’s decaying roads and bridges,” said Tittel. “It is shameful that DOT is trying to block public participation and transparency. They don’t want people who question their project involved in their review process at all. They are creating a Public Advisory Group that won’t include any of the town representatives who have been opposing this project for three years.”

The Delaware Water Gap is a nationally prominent scenic wonder and a gateway to the one of the most widely used National Park units in the nation. The income generated by tourism to the Delaware Water Gap and the scenic value of Northwest New Jersey will likely be negatively impacted by the proposed fence.

“The Sierra Club has been fighting to protect the Delaware Water Gap for the past 60 years because this is our Yellowstone, our Yosemite. The Delaware Water Gap belongs to all of us. This land is held in trust for the public, not for the NJDOT to build a giant wall fence. The NJ Sierra Club has requested for an EIS and input on alternatives to the department, but that has fallen on deaf ears. Multiple towns have also come out against the project but DOT refuse to have an open discussion about it. The NJDOT should not be wasting tax-payer money on a non-essential project in an environmentally sensitive area,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We thank Senator Oroho and Assemblymen Wirths and Space for spearheading legislation that would halt DOT’s disastrous rockfall project in Knowlton. Now we need to push it through the legislature to be signed.”