Monday, August 12, 2013

If They Can't Properly Manage Wood Chips, What Else Can Go Wrong?

Greg Lotorto, professional horticulturalist, got this response from the DCNR regarding wood chips that have been piled three feet deep up to 20 feet out from the Tennessee Pipeline right of way by Kinder Morgan. Photo taken in the Delaware State Forest, Milford Township adjacent the headwater wetland of Pinchot Brook, a DCNR-designated core habitat for endangered species, named for Gifford Pinchot, father of the American conservation movement.

To Kinder Morgan: We are everywhere, and we will catch every violation.

Dear Mr. Lotorto,

Thank you for your interest in the pipeline expansion project across the Delaware State Forest. As noted in your email, Assistant District Forester Tim Balch inspected the pipeline site on July 29th and instructed the company to reduce the chip piles along the right of way. We require un-merchantable woody material such as the wood chips be retained on site for long term nutrient retention. However, as you mention, these chips as piled have the potential to cause damage to the adjacent trees through bark and root damage. In addition these windrowed piles are unsightly. To meet the obligations of the Timber Sale Contract under which they conducted the line clearing they are required to “disperse chips such that chips are scattered throughout the surrounding state forest land. Also, chip piling is not permitted.”

DCNR/Bureau of Forestry is a resource management and not a regulatory agency. As such we do not issue violations as DEP might. Our power is through enforcing contract obligations including holding performance bonds. We will have the company properly disperse the wood chips in the near future to meet there obligations. Tim has not returned your subsequent phone calls as he been out of the office in staff meetings and directing other projects. He has been and will continue following through on this issue.

We will let you know when this issue is satisfactorily resolved. Please let me know if you have further questions.

Sincerely,

Bradley Elison| District Forester, Delaware Forest District
PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Bureau of Forestry | 2174A Rt. 611
Swiftwater, Pa 18370-7466
Phone: 570-895-4005 | Fax: 570-895-4041
www.dcnr.state.pa.us | www.iConservePA.org


Mr. Lotorto's original e-mail:

Mr. Ellison,

I am a resident of Pike county since 1987 and have enjoyed outdoor activities in the Delaware State Forest. The recent destruction caused by two gas pipelines causes me great concern for the future of our forests, streams and valuable wetlands.

I have been particularly following the Tennessee NEUP that is currently under construction. I realize that their permit to operate is from FERC, but I do not believe it should allow them to destroy our landscape. I believe that the forest belongs to the residents of the Commonwealth and it is the responsibility of the PA government (i.e. DCNR) to protect our resources.

Besides being an outdoorsman I am also a professional in the field of horticulture and resource management. I have a BS in Horticulture from Rutgers Univ. and a MA in Landscape Architecture. I have 40 yrs of experience in working with soils and trees. In a recent visit to the site of the TGP pipeline right of way near Schocopee Rd just above Pinchot Brook in Milford, I found an obvious problem with the contractor’s work. The ground up debris from the tree clearing operation has been pushed off of the ROW and spread around the existing trees. This debris is up to three feet thick and it is right up against the trees. First, I note that the TGP permit does not allow them to operate heavy equipment outside of their ROW. Second, the depth of this debris covering the tree roots is excessive and will cause the decline of these trees. Third, placing this much against the trunk of trees causes rot, disease and makes them susceptible to other pathogens. All of these issues were discussed with the assistant district forester on Monday 7/29/13. He said he had observed the site and had spoken to the project manager for TGP. He agreed that all three issues were problems and that the contractors would be instructed to correct the problem.

I am not completely satisfied with this response. I believe that there is already irreparable damage to the existing forest and TGP should be issued a violation. I have visited the site again on Sunday 8/4/13 and nothing has changed. I have left two messages at your office for the assistant district forester but have not received a response. This is just one location that I have monitored. I imagine that there are other locations with similar issues.

I request a reply to this email and some type of action. We have many concerned citizens in Pike County that are watching and ready to take action. We cannot allow TGP to move forward on this path of destruction.

If necessary we are prepared to go into the forest and fix the problem to save our forest. Realize that this will take many volunteers and will not look good for the reputation of TGP or DCNR. It goes without saying that the news media will be alerted if we do not get a satisfactory response and have to take matters into our own hands. I hope this will not be necessary now or in the future.

Sincerely,

Gregory Lotorto
 

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