Millstone takes a stand for its flora and fauna

Properties may fall subject to stricter environmental testing


Staff Writer

Millstone Millstone MILLSTONE — Wildlife and plants may be better protected should the township follow through on suggestions made by a member of its Environmental Commission.

Environmental Commission member Barry Frost told the Township Committee at its Dec. 6 meeting that, after examining dozens of developers’ Environmental Impact Statements (EIS), he became concerned with a serious deficiency he found in all the documents.

“I refer to the complete and utter failure of all EIS‚” he said, “to state the conditions under which applicants tested for the presence of wildlife.”

Frost noted that the township recently updated its Natural Resources Inventory (NRI), which he called “a work of art.” He described the NRI as a highly detailed, professionally prepared package of inventories, charts, photographs and maps.

The NRI describes the plant and animal life within the township’s borders. Frost said the NRI represents one of the most important tools the Environmental Commission has to assess the environmental impact of any proposed development.

“It’s supposed to be used in conjunction with evaluation of an applicant’s projects, but it’s not,” he said.

Despite the information in the NRI and from agencies such as the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), as well as the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Frost said the Environmental Commission is left “with a paucity of information when an applicant files the required EIS, but fails to delineate even the most fundamental accounting of the manner in which compliance is made with respect to wildlife that is [considered] at risk.”

Frost claimed that most developers’ EIS submissions contain boilerplate lists of endangered and threatened species found locally, with no explanation of how it was determined that they are or not present on the property.

Frost said EIS should include criteria such as the professional qualifications of any person evaluating the presence or absence of plant and animal life, along with the procedures and methodologies employed in the studies. He also asked that the EIS include the location, the month or season, the time of day, and the amount of time the studies took.

“The oft-stated comments found within nearly every EIS, such as ‘nothing observed,’ ‘not likely to be there,’ ‘can move to adjacent areas’ and other equally negligent and irresponsible comments, cannot be accepted,” he said.

Frost said he contacted the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions (ANJEC), and found out that Millstone has a very sophisticated process regarding its EIS. He said he was told that other towns don’t even ask for such information.

Frost said he was advised at an environmental meeting at Brookdale Community College, Lincroft section of Middletown, that the township should require paid professionals who specialize in wildlife to conduct the EIS. He pointed out that developers do not do soil samplings and that applicants hire companies to do such work and send samples to labs for testing.

“On something that is just as important, there is nothing,” he said. “No requirements.”

Mayor Nancy Grbelja said the township attorney could put such requirements into an ordinance.