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DEP: Union Beach turbine work started prematurely

UNION BEACH – Proponents of a controversial wind turbine project violated state law by starting to build it before meeting all conditions of the required permits, according to state Department of Environmental Protection documents.

The Bayshore Regional Sewerage Authority started work before obtaining approval from the Freehold Soil Conservation District and before reaching an agreement with the Jersey Central Power & Light Co. that would allow the turbine to breach the air space above the neighboring property, according to a Feb. 8 letter by Marcedius T. Jameson, acting director of the DEP’s Water and Land Use Enforcement office.

“We find that BRSA is in violation of the pre-construction conditions,” Jameson wrote to Stuart Lieberman, a Princeton attorney representing Union Beach in the municipality’s legal challenge to the authority’s project. “A Notice of Violation will be issued to BRSA very shortly.”

On Friday, the notice had yet to reach the BRSA, said its executive director, Robert Fischer, who was unaware of it.

The BRSA did reach an agreement with JCP&L for using its air rights, Fischer said. The BRSA submitted a copy of the accord to the state last May as part of its permit application, he said.

When work started on the project, the BRSA did not anticipate that it would be disturbing sufficient earth to require review and approval by the Freehold Soil Conservation District, Fischer said. By the time the earth was moved, the project’s first phase was all but done, he said.

The turbine’s wings will swoosh as high as 380 feet. Authority officials have said the turbine will allow them to reduce municipal sewerage rates by 35 percent by 2013. Towns that would benefit from the rate reduction are Aberdeen, Hazlet, Holmdel, Keansburg, Keyport, Matawan, Union Beach and parts of Marlboro.

Larry Ragonese, a DEP spokesman, said late Friday that he was unaware of the specifics of the letter relating to the BRSA. Generally, though, he said that a notice of violation does not necessarily mean an entity has committed a violation. Rather, it means that the DEP intends to look into allegations that a violation has occurred.

The notice of violation reflects how the BRSA has given little thought to the concerns of its neighbors and of environmentalists as it has pursued the project, Lieberman said.

“We’re very, very proud of the DEP,” Lieberman said. “BRSA is just trying to bully its way through this.”