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Federal and State Officials Propose To Make Meadowlands Plan More Environmentally Protective

Release Date: 04/02/1999
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(#99045) NEW YORK, N.Y. -- Federal and state officials today proposed changes to the Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) for New Jersey's Meadowlands that will reduce the acreage of wetlands that will be developed by almost half. The changes to the SAMP, originally proposed in 1995, will cut, from 842 to no more than 465 acres, the amount of wetlands impacted by planned development in the Meadowlands. Parties to this proposal are the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the State of New Jersey and the Hackensack Meadowlands Development Corporation. The revisions also include more extensive measures to protect undeveloped wetlands from future development in perpetuity by setting them aside as conservation areas. In addition, the revisions modify permitting requirements under the SAMP. With these revisions, the SAMP will better preserve the integrity and environmental quality of the Hackensack Meadowlands.

The amended SAMP is designed to protect natural resources, provide for the cleanup of existing pollution and allow for reasonable growth in New Jersey's Hackensack Meadowlands. The federal government will open a 60 day public comment period during which it will hold meetings and document reviews and on today's proposed changes.

"We've already lost nearly half the wetlands in the Hackensack Meadowlands and this plan will protect, restore and improve the quality of much of the remaining wetlands," said Jeanne M. Fox, EPA Region 2 Administrator. "This area represents one of the largest remaining urban wetlands. Although we've had our difference about how best to protect the Meadowlands, the environmental results make the efforts well worth it." Colonel William H. Pearce, New York District Engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers said, "The SAMP is an innovative land use planning approach that addresses long-standing contention between economic and environmental interests in the Hackensack Meadowlands. It will enable private property owners to effectively plan reasonable economic development projects without incurring lengthy, costly, and unpredictable regulatory reviews. At the same time, the SAMP effectively balances the environmental needs of the Meadowlands by affording multitudinous measures to assure enhancement and restoration of wetlands, landfill and hazardous waste cleanups, water quality improvements to the Hackensack River watershed and open space preservation."

During the public comment period for the SAMP proposed in 1995, more than one thousand comments were received, many of them expressing concern over the amount of wetland acreage that can be developed. The revisions to the proposed SAMP greatly reduce the number of acres that can be developed to a 465-acre maximum and it is expected that overall wetlands fill would be further reduced through project-specific minimization.

The revisions will also enhance conservation efforts by supporting the purchase and preservation of wetlands. In addition, the Department of Interior will work with New Jersey to develop a joint proposal under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act to acquire wetlands. The Department of Interior is currently evaluating a proposal to establish a National Urban Wildlife Refuge in the Hackensack Meadowlands. In addition, the federal government will explore ways to use President Clinton's proposed $1 billion Land Legacy and $9.5 billion Better America Bonds initiatives to benefit the Meadowlands. New Jersey will similarly examine state preservation tools, such as Governor Whitman's Open Space Policy, which could aid in the efforts to preserve the wetlands.

Changes were also made to the proposed SAMP to better evaluate alternatives to development projects larger than 25 acres. Under the proposed plan, an alternatives analysis would be performed for any project larger than 25 acres. This alternatives analysis will look at options such as not building, building on uplands or in areas that are already developed, or building outside of the Hackensack Meadowlands District.

The revisions also propose reducing in the size of projects that would be covered under a general permit in the SAMP from less than 15 to less than 10 acres. With today's revisions, projects that would impact 10 acres or more of wetlands must apply for individual permits.

The Hackensack Meadowlands District is a 32-square mile area that includes portions of 14 municipalities in two counties in Northeastern New Jersey. The District, which once contained approximately 17,000 acres of wetlands, has lost nearly half of these wetlands as a result of hydrologic and environmental alterations, primarily from filling and draining for development. The remaining undeveloped areas within the District are mostly wetlands (approximately 8,500 acres including open water) and are under substantial development pressure. Many areas of the Meadowlands have been contaminated by old industrial sources and improperly managed landfills.

For more information contact:
Mary Mears, Press Office
EPA Region 2
290 Broadway
NY, NY 10007-1866
Voice: 212-637-3669 FAX: 212-637-5046 E-Mail: