Tree grant could bring $620K
Reforestation grant will bring 2,000 trees to the community
"This is a fabulous opportunty. This will correct a lot of wrongs."
Steve Sangle, chairperson of the township's Environmental Commission, on the DEP grant that would bring $620,000 to the township to plant trees
WEST MILFORD — The Tennessee Gas Pipeline took down hundreds of trees in West Milford all along its route as the company laid pipeline to increase its production capacity. Now, through grants from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the company is paying money to municipalities impacted by their work so they can plant trees to make up for the ones lost. West Milford is eligible for $620,000 of that funding and last week, Environmental Commission Chairperson Steve Sangle told the council he wants to get moving on it.
"The grant is ours to lose," said Sangle to the mayor and council. He is making sure that doesn't happen.
According to Sangle, the township was notified in December by the DEP that this money was available. The township first has to devise a community forestry plan and apply by June 1, 2013. The application process is "not a two-page application," Sangle said, but rather in depth. The township will need to hire a consultant to deal with that and to oversee the entire project to completion, which will take over two years. What they need to do right now to get the ball rolling is first get a letter of intent from the council.
"The reforestation really is a no-lose proposition," said Nancy Gage, the township administrator. "The township fought for Tennessee Gas Pipeline to do some of this. This is our reward, to have Tennessee Gas give back to this community."
Gage said the township is prepared to send a letter to the DEP indicating the intent to apply for the funding. And the council members all agreed. As of this week, that has been done.
Sangle said West Milford would be "first in line" for the funding since this community was most affected by the deforestation caused by the pipeline company. The $620,000 would add roughly 2,000 trees to West Milford's landscape, he estimated.
A possible consultant
Ron Farr stood with Sangle as he addressed the council. Farr is an accredited forester and a resident of West Milford. Sangle said he recommends that Farr be hired by the township as the consultant on this project. Farr will present a proposal to the township to be considered for the consulting job.
"The application is very detailed," said Sangle. "It requires specs of trees and where they will be planted."
The job would also entail overseeing the contractors who will be hired to do the actual plantings, mulching and maintenance. In order to meet the requirements of the state, 95 percent of the plantings must survive after two years. The contractor hired would agree to care for the new plantings for those two years.
Sangle and the council agreed this could have a tremendous impact on the township. Sangle said his number one priority would be the Lake Lookover area, which was devastated by the deforestation due to the pipeline.
"The problem is the grant is to reforest because of the deforestation of the pipeline but we can't use it on New Jersey state property or the pipeline easement," said Sangle.
What he would do is plant on the property between the pipeline and Lake Lookover.
"That would be a top priority," he said. "That lake was pristine. It was terrible what happened to those people. If we can remediate that, it would be great."
The reforestation can take place anywhere the township chooses; they're not limited to plant in areas affected directly by the pipeline.
"We can work with the streetscape project in the town center," Sangle said. "We can plant on private or public property, including athletic fields, the new library, town hall."
Councilman Lou Signorino asked if the grant could be used to remove trees that have been downed in recent storms.
"Great question," said Sangle, who looked into it and said the township could make that part of the contract.
The only cost to the township, he said, would be part of the $3,000 fee to devise the community Forestry Management Plan. That, though, could be paid with in-kind services.
The Environmental Commission meets on Monday and will assign a subcommittee to work on the particulars of this project. Sangle is excited to get moving on it.
"This is a fabulous opportunity," said Sangle. "This will correct a lot of wrongs."
What are your thoughts about the reforestation project? Go to westmilfordmessenger.com and tell us.
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