Site: 392 total acres area, 246 acres of riparian lands, wetlands, forested wetlands, and emergent and scrub-shrub wetlands. 146 acres were developed for industrial use. Only 20 acres are currently in use.
Wildlife Habitat: According to Pennsauken Township's consultants, a second-year Bald Eagle nest, the only Eagle nest in Camden County, was "recorded in the center east portion of Petty's Island," and "the nest will remain protected by both federal and state law for a period of five years from the last season of occupation. (Brown & Keener Urban Design, Margie Ruddick Landscape, Kise Straw & Kolodner, Inc., Waterfront Master Plan, Pennsauken, New Jersey, April 7, 2004, p. 9) The Township's Waterfront Master Plan also states: "Mature trees along the island's water edges for perching to hunt are a key part this overall habitat," and, "because the southern half of Petty's Island is a complex network of shorelines, wetlands, and forest... its delineation by the NJDEP could exert a number of development limitations there."(24) The island's trees, plants, and vines also offer critical cover for songbirds, which use the Delaware River as a visual migratory travel corridor and for a heron rookery.
Pennsauken Has No Wildlife Protection Plan for Petty's Island; Township officials ignore own Master Plan consultant recommendations: Because Petty's Island has valuable wildlife habitat, wetlands, perching resources, and water's edges, Pennsauken's Master Plan consultants recommended that "the shoreline and adjacent wetlands and forest on the inland or southern side of the island be protected and contiguous. This will not only preserve the highest diversity of habitats and wildlife (including the water's edge perching habitats), but also will connect directly to the river and the fragile freshwater interface (Cooper River outfall) directly across the channel." (24-26) The Master Plan consultants reported that eagle nest protection regulations "generally prohibits development within a 1 kilometer radius of an active nest site and regulate land management within a 5 kilometer radius open water forage zone," and that "this is especially important, since these limiting regulations would otherwise greatly reduce the "Smart Growth" redevelopment of much of the Pennsauken waterfront."(9) The consultants concluded "This is a major issue, with great impacts on the redevelopment of the entire waterfront" and "should be addressed on a multi-municipality basis."
Cherokee Plan: Instead of developing a wildlife protection plan on a multi-municipality basis as recommended by their own Master Plan consultants, Pennsauken officials chose Cherokee, a private land developer also developing Camden's adjacent Cramer Hill project, and its proposal to fully develop Petty's Island with 721 high-income homes, a 250-room hotel, an 18-hole golf course with clubhouse, walking paths and to fill all low areas on the island and grade all Project areas above the 100-year flood plain. Instead of protecting the island's eastern shore line and contiguous forest -- the island's most sensitive environmental habitat -- Cherokee's plans to build a riverfront road and public walkway along the eastern shoreline and breakup the contiguous forest. Further, in Camden's Cramer Hill and along Pennsauken's mainland waterfront, Cherokee's Plan will eliminate the overwhelming majority of habitat the area's wildlife need for foraging and perching making all of Petty's Island's 392 acres that much more important to protect. Eagle experts report that continued eagle nesting on Petty's Island would be incompatible with the type of development plan Pennsauken and Cherokee now have for the island.
Delaware River water quality - Citgo will clean up contamination on Petty's Island. But Cherokee's proposed golf course, roads, parking lots and rooftops will increase stormwater runoff and increase quantities of pesticides, fertilizers, oil and gas from cars and trucks to the Delaware River.
Public access-Petty's Island has been "off limits" for a decades due to industry. But who will have access when the 721 luxury homes and a golf course are built? Not the average Camden County and Pennsauken resident.
Traffic-The proposed development on Petty's Island will mean that everyday 1,500 cars plus delivery trucks will drive onto and off of Petty's Island FOREVER.
Facts about the Proposed Conservation Easement for Pettys Island
- By accepting a conservation easement in a community-based partnership with two private land trusts, neither the state nor the federal government would take title to or ownership of Pettys Island. The conservation easement is simply a permanent limitation on development to preserve open space and to provide protection for the islands eagles and herons.
- As holders of the conservation easement, neither the state nor the federal government would assume any liability or financial responsibility for cleaning up existing contamination on Pettys island. Citgo Petroleum Corp. has and will continue to have that responsibility and has agreed to clean up in accordance with NJ Department of Environmental Protection standards.
- Preserving open space on Pettys Island in its entirety through a conservation easement is a once in a lifetime opportunity to protect a 392 acre island sanctuary for songbirds, herons, and eagles, and to create a world-class environmental educational opportunity for children in New Jersey, particularly the Camden area, and Southeastern Pennsylvania.
- Two private land trusts, operated by the NJ Conservation Foundation and the NJ Audubon Society, have offered to partner with the US Fish and Wildlife Service or any other entity in the federal government to hold the conservation easement. These groups would do the day-to-day work of monitoring the easement.
- Citgo Petroleum has promised to donate excess funds from its lease with Crowley marine operations to cover the costs of any island maintenance and open space safeguards. It estimates that this will be between $2 and $2.5 million over the next 12 years.
- Pennsauken Township, and its developer, Cherokee Investments, have the legal right to seize the island through eminent domain under New Jerseys Redevelopment and Housing Act if they act before a conservation easement has been accepted. If Pennsauken is successful in condemning the island , Pettys island will be developed, the eagles will move away, and the opportunity to create the first island wildlife sanctuary between two cities will be lost forever.
- Any development on the island is inconsistent with protect the bald eagles and other threatened and endangered species on Pettys Island. The wildlife that currently live on the island depend on open space both on the island and on the mainland in Pennsauken Township and the City of Camden for foraging and roosting. Approximately 75% of that mainland habitat will be lost once Cramer Hill (Camden) and Pennsauken is redeveloped. The current wildlife population will almost certainly be forced out of the area unless we compensate the loss of the mainland foraging and roosting habitat with total protection of the island.
- The bald eagle is classified as federally and state threatened in the Delaware River states of Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. The U.S. Department of the Interior believes that "preservation of essential" habitat is necessary for full recovery and long-term survival of this species. In April 2004, the US Fish and Wildlife Service wrote that the location of a bald eagle pair nest on Pettys Island "is unique in that it is located within an urban area between the cities of Camden, New Jersey and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and that "despite surrounding urban areas, this location provides suitable opportunities for foraging and roosting along the Delaware River and the Cooper River."
- The conservation easement would protect significant US Fish and Wildlife Service investments in the Cooper River and Delaware River watersheds natural resources, including significant investments in two award-winning fish ladders, and riparian buffers protected under the Partners for Wildlife Program and a bio-filter wetland. It will also meet the following goals and objectives of the Department of the Interiors Delaware River Management Plan:
"Preserve and protect the rivers outstanding natural resources, including rare and endangered plant and animal species, river islands, steep slopes and buffer areas in the river corridor and along the tributaries."
"Promote stream corridor preservation, as well as protection of steep slopes, floodplains and wetlands."
"Encourage the protection of river corridor resources while allowing property owners to utilize their land in ways that do not harm those valuable resources."
"Encourage the protection of significant natural resources in the corridor, including rare and endangered plant and animal species and significant wildlife habitats."
"State, county, municipal, and private entities should provide additional access sites to the river, particularly low-impact recreational activities that are environmentally suited to protecting the river and habitats. Suggestions include fishing, birding and wildlife observation, hiking, and canoe camping. Suitable sites should be secured while opportunities remain."
"Preserve open space as a means of maximizing the health of the ecosystem, preserving scenic values, and minimizing the impact of new development in the river corridor."
"Lands within the river corridor that have special environmental or scenic value and significant agricultural lands should be permanently preserved by private programs, individual landowners and public ownership in fee or easement as appropriate to assure their ability to continue to offer scenic benefits."
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