Annual Message 2005

Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Millville Public Library, Gant Room
6:30-8:30 p.m.

What a year!  Before we recap some of the happenings for 2004 allow us to update you on some of the more recent events.  Those of you who have signed up for our e-mail hotline do get more frequent updates than those who haven’t.  So if you have access to the internet please make your e-mail address known to us and we’ll add you to our list.

Athos Oil Spill-Clay Sutton and Jane Morton Geletto survey for oiled birdsThe Athos oil spill of  November 16, 2004 in the Delaware River threatens the environs of not only the bay and ocean but also our river.  On December 10, 2004 a number of environmental representatives went on a trip with the US Coast Guard.  We hired Clay Sutton for the tour to make wildlife observations.  There was no slick visible on the water but we did see some oiled gulls in Bivalve.  The experts on board told us that most of the oil had sunk below the surface and at that time there was no evidence of oil as far south as the Maurice River cove.  Most of the oil is now in “tar ball” form.  We discussed possible booming and vulnerable areas.  Clay observed at least 25 different avian species using the Bay. This included one Bald Eagle at Nantuxent Creek and four on the lower Cohansey River (2 adults and 2 immatures).  Also noted on the fog-bound Cohansey were a notable 20 plus Northern Harriers.  Two Peregrine Falcons were seen — one sitting on a navigation marker near Egg Island Point, and one on the navigational tower at the entrance to the Cohansey River.  Also a probable Harbor Seal was seen near the mouth of the Maurice River.  On this trip we did not go upstream of Bivalve on the Maurice.  All in all the cleanup efforts did not reassure us that wildlife, water quality and the like would not be adversely affected.

These are the contact numbers for various scenarios: If you see oil balls on the shores of the Maurice River or bayfront cove area call: 267-765-3539.  We are asking property owners along the Maurice to make regular observations. If you see oiled wildlife report it to 215-365-1558.  Please try to make positive identification of the species.  It is my understanding that in one instance there were efforts made to capture an oiled eagle for cleaning.  Even if an animal sadly cannot be captured there is an assessment of impacts that may at very least provide some mitigation funds for the benefit of wildlife.  I am well aware that may seem of little comfort but it is all I can offer in the way of advice.

If you have property damage this is to be reported to 866-401-0353.

River representative from the Wild and Scenic Partnership Rivers meet in CTJane and Fred went to the Farmington Watershed with two representatives of the NPS Wild and Scenic Rivers program, in order to represent Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers.  In 2004 Congress voted to increase the dollars budgeted to Wild and Scenic Partnership Rivers from $600,000 to $900,000.  This year Congress has approved an increase for 2006 spending by an additional $250,000, bringing the total budget to 1.15 million.  The dollars coming to the Maurice River in 2004 are about $135,000.  NPS administrative dollars come from this allocation.  Groups receiving the money have been Cumberland County Planning and Development, The Nature Conservancy, The Natural Lands Trust and CU.

Students apply glue to Bevin skiff hullAs you know we are working on the Bevin Skiff Project with Wood School students in Millville.  So if you would like to lend a hand our next evening of participation is Tuesday, January 4, 2005 at 5 p.m. in the cafeteria. Call member Gladis McGraw at Wood School (327-6141) and tell her that CU referred you!  Planing the side rails is the next step.

The Association of NJ Environmental Commissions (ANJEC) received a grant from the William Penn Foundation to develop strategies for the NJ Delaware Bayshore area.  Representatives from the following organizations met to discuss options: CU, NJ Conservation Foundation, NJ Audubon Society, ANJEC, Pinelands Preservation Alliance, The Nature Conservancy, Natural Lands Trust, American Littoral Society, and a number of other watershed organizations.  The group concluded that they should form a bayshore alliance. There will be another meeting for January.

On December 13, 2004 Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and Its Tributaries, Inc. made a presentation to the Millville Planning Board regarding a General Development Plan Application by NJ Motorsports Park. In addition to the Citizens United’s testimony a number of expert witnesses testified on our behalf and were questioned by our legal counsel Carter Stickland, of the University of Rutgers NJ Environmental Law Clinic.  Carter Strickland represented NJ Audubon, Association of NJ Environmental Commissions, and Citizens United.

Sound expert Eric Zwerling takes measurementsNoise expert Eric Zwerling testified as to the impacts of noise on people and animals.  He also established the ambient sound levels of neighborhoods around the airport at about 45 decibels, essentially rather quiet.  He further noted that the developer predicted an increase in sound levels to about 65 decibels.  Additionally the City’s ordinance allows for as much as an 80 decibels noise level in residential areas bordering the facility.   In similar situations such a sound increase is normally characterized as “intolerable” by neighbors.  Biologist Joanna Burger, Ph.D., professor at Rutgers University, testified as to the ill effects of noise and habitat loss on animals.  She discussed the fact that many threatened and endangered species are reliant on calls for mating.  Animals depend on noise to avoid predation as well as to find food. Eric Stiles, Vice President for Conservation and Stewardship at NJ Audubon, testified offering a review of the reports prepared by Amy S. Greene for the City and the initial habitat review by the developer’s consultant.  He outlined the developer’s conclusions and shortcomings.  He pointed out that upland buffers around wetlands are regulated buffers.  He explained that Amy S. Greene’s report found present on site three threatened and endangered avian species and therefore the largest buffers would have to be maintained for these species.  CU President Jane Morton Galetto gave a brief introduction to these testimonies and pointed out some other deficiencies in the application.  Her testimony was provided in full to members and subscribers of the e-mail hotline.

Leslie Ficcaglia and Jane Galetto attended a meeting at NJAS Goshen Research Center on Nov. 3 regarding the creation of a wildlife trail guide for the Delaware bayshore in NJ.  NJ Audubon Society has hired Lillian Armstrong to coordinate the development of this project.  Individuals are encouraged to nominate areas to be included in the guide.

We have had many highlights in the year 2004. Our newsletters have been full of protection efforts for the Holly Farm/ Conectiv property.  The transfer of this property to a developer is presently under the review of the NJ Board of Public Utilities. We hope the property will ultimately be preserved by the State Green Acres Program.  While we struggle to see some special forests protected, we did have a huge feather in our cap in 2004.  At long last the “Bluffs” property or “Grainery” is protected by The Nature Conservancy.  This outcome would not have been reached were it not for CU’s tireless efforts. Congratulations to all the individuals and organizations who have advocated for many years to reach this grand finale.

Fred Akers, our Water Quality Manager, has been busy!  He has done characterizations on a number of tributaries, including the Parvin, Tarkiln, Blackwater, and a ditch that leads to Burnt Mill branch.  He has assessed aspects of a number of properties that are suitable for preservation.  He has kept us abreast of the Mid-Atlantic Recycling Technologies issue in Vineland and represented our concerns.  He has co-represented us in the Wild and Scenic Partnership advocacy in Washington, DC, and for legislation in Trenton.  He, Renee Scagnelli, Steve Eisenhauer and Tony Ficcaglia have all completed a botany identification class.  This is but a limited sampling of Fred’s contributions to the organization.

Senator Nick Asselta successfully championed legislation in Trenton which protects archeological resources on public grounds.  Governor Codey signed this legislation into law just recently.  A special thanks to Alan Mounier for providing professional touches to our advocacy on this issue and kudos to Senator Asselta for his leadership!

CU Research Journalist Debbie Barsotti has been busy collecting the personal recollections of folks whose families have river lore to share.  She has had success in getting some articles published so that a wider audience might hear the stories of the Maurice River and its tributaries.  Keep up the good work, Debbie!

Christine Raabe continues to work with “Down Jersey Teachers” helping them to interpret natural and cultural aspects of the NJ Delaware Bayshore Region.  The reception to the teacher workshops continues to be a positive refection on our local teachers’ desire to learn about and share local heritage.  A special thanks to the teachers and Christine!

As always we tackle a diversity of activities.  This year Trustee Steve Eisenhauer took many groups on kayak and canoe tours / seining events. We presently embark on our 18th annual Raptor / Waterfowl survey. Here is a short list of events: awarding of Connie Jost Scholarship, representation at the Raptor and Martin Festivals, Congressional tour and Conservation Summit on the Maurice, tours at Bayday and Conference of Mayors Annual Seafood Feast, painting bayscapes, window displays, banding of osprey, circulation of petitions, hosting and giving presentations,  awarding scholarships for flora identification classes, building boats with local youths, volunteering as eagle stewards, the reprinting of our teachers’ guide, supervising student volunteers and so much more.

President’s Comment:
As is often the case I normally use this space to reflect on the lives of individuals who in some way touched the organization’s mission or whose families elected to honor their memories with a donation to CU.  In this reflection I often find meaning in the work we do, primarily because it is all about leaving a meaningful legacy of protection for the region’s river resources.

People continue to note the passing of loved ones who cherished the out-of-doors by asking that donations be made to our organization.  This year Melissa Mazzola memorialized her husband, Joseph, with a gift to Citizens United.  Joey and I graduated high school together.  He was known by friends and coworkers for his quiet, friendly nature, his smile and “a full head of hair,” something that many men his age surely envied.  We appreciate Melissa’s donation in Joey’s name and wish her many happy memories to sustain her spirit.

In the past week we lost another CU member, community leader Hank Wyble.  On a couple of occasions CU was able to help Hank out with some river information he requested for his advertising business.  He served on the boards of the Army Airfield Museum and the Millville Public Library, and on the Millville Planning Board (to name a few).  In these capacities he contributed to some positive outcomes for the river’s resources.  Although he did not always share our view there were significant occasions when he did so. In his capacity on the Millville Planning Board he voted on the side of protection during the Genstar proposals.  He also voted to have a developer do an extensive Environmental Impact Survey on property near the mouth of the Menantico Creek.  Ultimately, this decision added nearly 100 acres to TNC’s Bluffs preserve.  And he voted for the City’s River Conservation Plan/ Zone.  He was a key player in designing signage for river visitors. But above all else he was a true gentleman.  Our sympathies go to his wife and family.

Many of you may remember Glenn McKim as a very active member of Citizens United in the 90’s.  Glenn became known to me for a number of outstanding things: his regular attendance at meetings, his interest in manning CU’s table at events, his propensity for clipping news articles on CU, his love of flying and aircraft (everyone must remember that “Hanger 7” jacket) and of course those huge mutton chops.  Glenn was on the Laurel Lake Property Owner Association board for over 31 years.  When he wasn’t taking part in defending Laurel Lake he was immersed in it partaking of his daily swim.  Some of the months he swam the lake’s length did not seem humanly possible.

Glenn was so good-natured and I remember how sad everyone was when his health precluded him from being a regular meeting attendee.  Glenn was born June 1918 and on June 8, 2004 he passed away.  His life long interest in aviation was also his career.  He served as a Naval aviator in WW II, Korea and Vietnam.  He traveled the world on the USS Intrepid and USS Forrestal.  Then he retired the Navy in 1973 and spent his time flying his Cessna 140 and inspected planes at Hanger 7.  He held both a commercial and private pilot’s license.  His wife Mabel, two daughters, a grandson and his sisters survived him.  He had a real interest in being out of doors whether it be swimming Laurel Lake or flying over the landscapes of Southern NJ.  He always shared his heartfelt observations with members.  Glenn was truly just an all around “nice guy” and a real gentleman.

As I reflect on Glenn’s life and the small window of my meaningful exchanges with him I think about the fortitude and dedication those daily swims must have taken.  Glenn had strength of character and he saw and appreciated that same tenacity in Citizens United.  He understood the concept of banning together for a common cause.  He was always one of the first to volunteer to represent CU at an event or to take aerial photographs of a forest in need of protecting.  His life reminds me of the successes that CU has had by each of us giving of our individual gifts toward a common cause.  It also reminds me of all the very fine people that Citizens United has allowed me to meet and enjoy.  My hope is that many of you feel and share this same experience of camaraderie and accomplishment.

It gives us great pleasure to introduce this year’s officers and trustees as elected at the November 2004 meeting.
Trustees Officers
Ethan Aronoff President Jane Morton Galetto
Leslie M. Ficcaglia Vice President Berwyn Kirby
Steve Eisenhauer Recording Secretary Sue Fenili
Richard Jones Corresponding Secretary Mary Lou Barbose
Joanne Murphine Treasurer Gerry Barsotti
Berwyn Kirby Assistant Treasurer Irene Bird
Renee Scagnelli

Each of us wishes you a heathy and happy New Year.

Jane Morton Galetto


CU on the River!