Dennis Hart, Assistant Commissioner
Division of Water Quality
PO Box 029,
Re: PSE&G Salem Generating Station Permit No. NJ0005622
coalition partner of the Stop the Salem Fish Slaughter and Unplug Salem
Campaigns, the NJ Environmental Federation (NJEF) offers the following comments
on the PSE&G Salem 316 permit
and the related Estuary Enhancement Program. NJEF supports the statements of the
Unplug/Stop the Salem Fish Slaughter members
regarding the 316 permit issues and wishes to focus on Phragmites control
aspect of the permit so as to not be repetetive. On behalf of NJEF’s 70,000
individual members and 87 member groups, I am writing you to urge you to require PSE&G, the
operators of the Salem Nuclear Plants, to install cooling towers, which is Best
Technology Available, to reduce the Salem Nuclear Plants fish kills by 95%.
These nuclear plants are having an adverse impact on the Delaware Estuary
because they use over 3 BILLION gallons of water a day for cooling, and kills 3
billion fish per year through entrainment ( Versar report, l990). These
nuclear plants, and the permit they operate under, violate the intent of the
Clean Water Act, section 316(b).
I request that the DEP put an end to PSE&G’s Phragmites control program in the Alloways Creek and Cohansey River
sites. Besides the fact that the
“Estuary Enhancement Program” does not replace the fish killed by the Salem
Nuclear Plants, the Phragmites eradication
program itself has been a failure. The
only way to control Phragmites at the
Cohansey River and Alloways Creek sites is by continued spraying of poisonous
herbicides into the marshes. This is not acceptable, and is not sustainable.
(See attachment 1, “Phragmites
control efforts damaging, not restoring the marsh”)
should be required to buy uplands instead,
replacing the failed wetland restoration acres with upland buffers on a three
for one ratio. Uplands would
protect the Delaware Bay from agricultural runoff, and would do more good than
trying to eradicate Phragmites, a
plant species that does serve some beneficial function in the marsh.
must protect the marine life in the Delaware Bay by rewriting the permit for
Salem to require cooling towers to minimize fish loss, and delete the phragmites
control program as a special condition of the permit.
submitted by Jane Nogaki, Pesticide Program Coordinator, NJ Environmental
1 Comments on PSE&G Submittal for NJDPES Permit May 2000
Phragmites Control Program Damaging, Not Restoring Marsh
the exception of the salt hay farm restorations, the Phragmites control efforts by PSE&G have failed to convert Phragmites
dominated areas to favorable vegetation except in very limited, and probably
short-lived, instances. The salt
hay farms converted relatively quickly and simply to Spartina
and other vegetation with the breaching of dikes and restoration of tidal flow.
The combination of salinity and periodic tidal wetting and drying of the
marsh at the salt hay farms favor a Spartina
marsh and the likelihood of success for controlling Phragmites
at those sites was high. PSE&G
should be given credit for those restored acres in their permit.
contrast, the Cohansey River and Alloways Creek sites have proven difficult if
not impossible to alter to favor Spartina.
The lower salinity and higher elevation of these sites favored the
production of Phragmites, and those
basic conditions cannot realistically be altered in any permanent way.
While temporary inroads may have been achieved by repetitive herbiciding,
it is clear that in order to maintain or improve the Phragmites
reduction, ever-repeating herbiciding coupled with Spartina
seeding and mechanical disruption would need to continue indefinitely. This is
the approach that Delaware uses, and it depends on 3 –4 spray and burn cycles
to gain initial phragmite reduction (never much below 30% Phragmites in a mixed vegetation scenario) followed by repeat
herbicide applications when Phragmites
reaches 50% of the vegetation mix.
repetitive herbiciding approach is not supported by any environmental group in
NJ. Repetitive herbiciding could cause damage in its own right to non-target
plants, beneficial soil organisms, and biodiversity (see attached article
“Glyphosate May Pose a Significant Risk”).
As of January 2001, a cumulative total of 25,000 pounds of glyphosate
(active ingredient) has been applied to 2500 acres of marsh, with a net gain of
approximately 350 acres of Spartina and
favorable vegetation.. Tons of herbicides have been applied
(2 – 3 applications per site) with only a 14 percent success rate at
converting to Spartina. The draft
permit appears to permit annual herbiciding of up to one third of the 2500 marsh
acres, calling this “spot treatment” for the duration of the permit until
final success criteria are met ( September 2012)..
NJEF questions this rather generous definition of “spot treatment”,
and the apparent permission to “spot treat” up to 1/3 of the acreage every
year until September 2012. Based
on the current “trajectory of success”, NJEF predicts that the 95% goal of
phragmites reduction can never be met, even if all the acreage were herbicided
in its entirety every year, an approach that we would never support.
If glyphosate is regarded as natural resource agencies as “one of the
most effective means to eradicate Phragmites”( P. 40, DEP fact sheet for
Permit NJ005622), why hasn’t it controlled Phragmites with the first two
applications, as was originally portrayed by spokesmen for PSE&G?
And why does NJDEP continue to permit PSE&G go down the spray road
when it is clear the effectiveness is not demonstrated, nor sustainable?
The mechanical disruption of Phragmites marsh on a large scale basis(mowing, microtopography) raises questions about ecosystem damage from loss of habitat as well. At some point, the techniques used for restoring wetlands (herbiciding, burning, mowing, discing, mechanical rhizome ripping, sulfating) seem to be conflicting with basic principles of wetland protection, that is, minimizing disturbance, compaction, erosion, plant/animal ecosystems.
to Richard A. Orson, Ph.D., “Spraying with herbicides can only be partially
effective and will have to be combined with mechanical removal techniques if we
are to insure that it is removed from a site.
However, the addition of herbicides and the disturbance of stable
substrates can end up doing more damage to the environment than the presence of
the plant would ever have done” 
250- 350 acres of Spartina or
favorable vegetation have been induced at the lAC and CR sites as of l999.
Rather than continue down the path of annual spray and burn, and endless
variations of test plots that may not be replicated on other marsh areas
(because of varying elevations, hydrology, plant communities, nutrient loads), it
would seem more beneficial to tally up the successful acres, give credit for
these acres towards the permit goals, and make up for the still dominant Phragmites
areas by buying uplands or horseshoe crab habitat.
Conserving uplands would
have long term benefits to the estuary, and would require no herbicides or
mechanical disruption to achieve their beneficial effect
appears from the compliance statement submitted with the permit application that
claims a total of 370 acres of Spartina has
been generated over a four-year period and over a 3,000 acre control effort (Alloways
and Cohansey projects combined). After
4 years of effort is this a significant enough success rate to warrant
continuing the project recognizing that the sustainability of newly created Spartina
is questionable and in a matter of years will be overtaken by the surrounding
stands of Phragmites. PSE&G may have been able to meet their 9% goal of Phragmites
reduction this year, but they will never reach the 95% reduction goal required
in their permit.
The effectiveness of the project should be the guiding factor in determining
whether to continue permitting the effort.
From 1972 to 1992, PSE&G documents that Phragmites
populations in the permit areas increased by nearly 30%.
Once PSE&G "completes" its efforts there will still be huge
stands of Phragmites within and around
the project areas which will reinvade the entire area.
Because the salinity and elevation in the Cohansey and Lower Alloways
Creek sites favor Phragmites over Spartina,
any short-term gains will ultimately be overcome by Phragmites. This
prediction was made by David Pimentel, Dept. of Entomology, Cornell University
when he characterized the problem in comments on the permit to Audrey
Wendelowsky (correspondence of May 21, l996) Pimentel said”Unfortunately,
spraying an herbicide will not accomplish the goal that you desire even though
it might appear to be the cheap, easy solution. Not only will it not succeed,
but the spraying is bound to cause serious environmental problems in the
fact that the project can not demonstrate long-term sustainability or success
should be weighed heavily in the permitting process.
methodology for evaluation of percentages of reduction of Phragmites and
regeneration of favorable vegetation is flawed. Aerial photography
interpretation tends to paint a rosier picture of Phragmites reduction than is actually the case when ground surveys
are conducted. From the air, it is
difficult to differentiate immature Phragmites from Spartan. The permit
submittal further obfuscates the calculation of net gain and loss of vegetation
communities by taking credit for “mixed Phragmites/Spartina”
acreage as Phragmites reduction.
should not be given for mixed vegetation. Even
if it were argued that partial credit should be given for mixed vegetation on a
“stem count” basis, it is obvious that the Phragmites
will over time crowd out the desirable plants.
This has already happened in the Eagle Island area along the northerly
marsh area as viewed from the dirt road going out to the farmhouse, where an
initially successful planting of cattails was subsequently overrun by Phragmites
by the end of the growing season. Thus
what may have been mapped as desirable vegetation in the spring of 99 would have
be be revised by the end of the growing season to dominant Phragmites,
maps do not accurately reflect the devegetated areas and loss of habitat on both
PSE&G's maps of the Alloways and Cohansey sites represent that in 1998 there is extensive vegetation and only a few mud flat areas. During a flyover conducted by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and New Jersey Environmental Federation on August 20, 1998 Jane Nogaki, Mary Ellen Noble and Maya van Rossum witnessed, and photodocumented, extensive areas where the vegetation was either dead standing Phragmites stalks, “pencil point new regrowth of Phragmites, or, extensive mudflats.
summary, the maps provided PSE&G to the NJDEP do not appear to accurately
portray the vegetative reality of the sites in question. and the
methodology(aerial photography) to assess percentages of credit toward
restoration goals is flawed. Because
of the incredible regenerative capacity of Phragmites,
reductions achieved in one year are lost in the next year when Phragmites
reemerges and overtakes other plant species or mudflats. (See attached comments
of Al Nicholson to NDJEP, April 26, 2000)
Phragmites difficult to control, eradication (95%) control is
an unrealistic and unachievable goal.
has been described as an “efficient colonizer of the disturbed soils and acts
as a climax species thereby forming extensive monocultures that reduce plant and
animal diversity.” (M.Stephen Ailstock, Ph.D.) Ailstock comments that “Much
of the difficulty in devising control efforts can be attributed to the superior
adaptive strategies of Phragmites for colonizing disturbed wetland soils and to
positive ecological contributions of the species.”
According to Ailstock, Phragmites
possesses three adaptations that inhibit the growth of other species in wetland
attains greater height than other vegetation, shading them from sunlight and
stressing their growth
has high stem densities, crowding out other plants
has dead aerial stems that persist when they break, forming a dense thatch layer
elevated above the soil layer. Without
soil contact, decay is slow. Thick
thatch layers prevent sunlight from reaching the soil surface, preventing any
other plant seeds from germinating
of these adaptive characteristics of Phragmites,
control and revegetation with other species is exceedingly difficult.
Dense rhizome mats continue to regenerate new plants even when initial
herbiciding control looks promising.
The superlative adaptive nature of Phragmites has implications for
success criteria for the PSE&G project. In monotypic stands of Phragmites,
the success criteria of reducing the plants by 95% are totally unrealistic.
Early on in the permit process, Management Plan Advisory Committee member
William Meredith (DNRC) had commented on the 95% criteria advising that it was
likely unachievable, and that a permit requirement with such lofty goals would
predetermine the project’s failure. His
predictions have been borne out.
permit must be rewritten
or PSE&G will be forced to use ever increasing herbiciding, manipulating,
and experimenting in order to show a good faith effort at meeting the lofty
criteria. This is not in anyone’s
interest, least of the entire marsh ecosystem.
There may be a line of thinking that wants to continue the experimental
test plots in the hopes of finding a new remedy or new information about Phragmites, but all the evidence so far points to no magic bullet
for the mighty Phragmites. In
addition, the NJEF question the
ability of the permit holder to design and report the science objectively when
there is an economic interest in the outcome, as well as rigorous permit
conditions (success criteria that must be met on a yearly basis over the next
eleven years) driving the “adaptive management” process. The NJ Environmental Federation would not support any continuation of
experiments on the marsh under PSE&G’s management.
We believe the money spent on the experiment would be better used in
permanently preserving uplands or horseshoe crab habitat.
Phragmites provides some benefits, may not always be desirable
without value as a species. Some
wetland biologists consider it to have an important function as part of a
wetland ecosystem and the “appreciation of place” should be conferred on it.
“In many ecosystems, Phragmites serves as an excellent stabilizer of soil and acts as an
efficient nutrient sink through its accumulation of large quantities of
persistent biomass. Moreover, it is the most efficient herbaceous aquatic plant
for transpiring large volumes of water and it does provide outstanding habitat
for many species of aquatic and semi-aquatic fauna.” (M. Stephen Ailstock,
Ph.D., Adaptive Strategies of Common Reed Phragmites
addition to being the most efficient plant in the marsh for storing nutrients
like nitrogen and phosphorus, Phragmites
is superior to Spartina in
concentrating toxic metals, particularly mercury. According to Lisamarie
Windham, Department of Biological Science at Rutgers University, Phragmites
is efficient in “locking” metals in sediments making them unavailable for
export through physical flow or trophic transfer.
While Phragmites binds metals
in the marsh, Spartina releases them
through leaf surfaces and detritus. “Spartina
leaf and stem detritus is estimated to contribute more than 3 times more Hg
(mercury) to the sediment surface than Phragmites
detritus. Hence, by physiological differences alone, the natural replacement of Spartina
with Phragmites has the potential to reduce the bioavailability of Hg,
arguably the most toxic of heavy metals.”
Considering that mercury and other metals in sediments in the Delaware
Bay have led to fish contamination and fish consumption advisories for both
freshwater and saltwater fish, the locking up of mercury in the sediments by Phragmites
needs to be factored into the decision to control it. Windham suggests that Phragmites
provides benefits to the marsh through its ability to reduce metal supplies
to the sediment surface when compared with Spartina,
and cautions against the disturbance of removing Phragmites and “restoring” Spartina
which would release sediment-bound metals. She concludes
Coastal wetlands of the eastern US. Are among the
most valuable and the most impacted ecosystems in North America (Catallo l993).
Given high nutrient and metal loadings, Phragmites
marshes appear to be better equipped than Spartina
marshes to improve water quality and reduce the trophic transfer of heavy
metals. I urge wetland managers to
consult the “genius of place” when considering the management of Phragmites. Depending on which wetland functions one wants to maximize, Phragmites
can be a solution rather than a problem.
The conceptual permit being sought subverts the public process and allows the applicant to evade public scrutiny.
recognize that PSE&G will respond to the request for site specific activity
mapping by arguing that in order to implement their adaptive management strategy
a detailed plan cannot be provided at this time.
The problem with this approach is that PSE&G wants to be able to make
up their program as they go along. The
result is that with this approach both the regulatory agencies and the public
are excluded from the process and all of the activities conducted are removed
from public review or discussion. This
means that the public and regulators never get an opportunity to engage in the
discussion about whether a particular technique (e.g. microtopography) has
worked or not and/or whether another technique should therefore be engaged (e.g.
herbiciding). Public comment at the
annual MPAC meetings is limited to five minutes per person at the very end of
the day long meeting, when members are anxious to leave the meeting to make
travel connections. Written
comments from the MPAC members, except for E. Greenwich representative Belva
Prycl, have been scant, bordering on non-existent, which belies the
public/scientific process that PSE&G touts as part of the EEP.
The public has a great deal of on-the-ground information to offer in this
regard. The draft permit being
sought by PSE&G with only general oversight and no details subverts the
public process and allows the applicant to evade public scrutiny.
By terminating the Phragmites control program, the Department will buffer itself from criticism related to annual herbiciding associated with the project.
PSE&G Phragmites control program
represents the largest application of aquatic herbicides every performed in New
Jersey at a time when millions of dollars of public money are being spent on
upgrading water quality in surface and groundwater to ameliorate the runoff of
pesticides and fertilizers. Nonpoint
source pollution (NPS - runoff and infiltration from pesticides, fertilizer,
hydrocarbons and litter) is being targeted for regulation under the federal
Clean Water Act.
has been identified as a major threat to water quality, yet permits for aquatic
pesticide use are routinely granted by the Department with no requirement to
explore alternatives, assess concomitant damage from herbicide use, or even
tally annual aquatic herbicide use. It
is difficult to justify permitting the introduction of more than 11 tons of
glyphosate (active ingredient) applied directly to 2500 acres of wetlands under
any circumstances, but especially so when the net “success” rate of
regenerating “favorable” vegetation has been less than 350 acres, after five
years of herbicide applications, mowing, ripping, and scraping.
If the first five years of activity have produced only a 9% regeneration
of spartina, the prognosis for achieving 95% favorable vegetation by the year
2012 is outlandishly optimistic and has no basis in reality. Rather than pour more poison onto the marsh, with very little
gain on phragmites, efforts should be placed on purchasing buffers
zones to protect the marsh from upland runoff which contributes excess
phosphorus, nitrates, sediment, and pesticides.
Department is undermining its own mission of pollution prevention and natural
resource protection when it permits aquatic applications of broad spectrum
herbicides on an open ended, annual basis with no demonstration of effectiveness
at controlling the pest and no requirement to assess damage to non target
vegetation and microorganisms. The
Department has been undermining the efforts of its own Integrated Pest
Management and pollution prevention messages by actually permitting increasing
use of aquatic herbicides over a five year period.
This growing aquatic use of herbicides, particularly glyphosate, is
mirrored by increasing use of glyphosate in agriculture (“round-up ready”
corn and soybeans account for 50% of the crops grown in NJ) and in commercial
lawn care. At a time when strides
are being made in reducing use of certain highly toxic pesticides like
Methylparathion, 2,4-D, Chlorpyrifos, Diazinon, and Carbaryl, there has been an
incremental increase in the use of glyphosate.
use of the herbicide glyphosate increased 6 fold from l995. (NJDEP Pesticide
Control Program data)
use increase occurred on both PSE&G
acres and on non-PSE&G acres, indicating a “copycat” response to PSE&G’s
spray and burn program on public and private lands. The latest example is a
phragmites control program using herbicides on state owned lands in the Wharton
Forest in the Pinelands.
had been permitted by NJDEP to annually apply herbicide to one-third of its 3000
acres for five years. I appears this permit is being extended until 2012.
A blanket permit of this magnitude is unprecedented in NJ history.
on all NJ wetlands increased from 155 acres in l995, to 700 acres in l998, to
942 acres in l999.
years of PSE&G’s initial Phragmites control program (l996-l997) was the
highest use of herbicide by a single user (21,000 pounds), coming very close to
or exceeding the amount typically used by the entire commercial lawn care
industry (20,000 pounds) or agricultural sector (24,000pounds) for the State of
The Department should check this growing use
of herbicides by ceasing to permit projects that have no likelihood of success
and that depend on repetitive herbiciding to “manage” a problem that is
difficult if not impossible to control, and may not be desirable to control.
If the Department is to meet its own goals for Integrated Pest Management
and improved water quality in impaired water bodies, it is going to have to
reconsider how it issues aquatic pesticide permits. A preferred alternative to
herbiciding would be the purchase of upland buffers between agricultural lands
and marsh to protect the marsh from non point source pollution ( fertilizer and
has been extensive public debate, discussion, legal activity, press coverage
regarding this project and the devastating impacts PSE&G is inflicting on
the Delaware River system both as a result of their fish kills at Salem and
their marsh kills characterized by the projects at hand. The Phragmites control project can not demonstrate long-term
sustainability or success and so should not be permitted to continue
In closing, we once again urge you to rewrite PSE&G's permit to terminate the Phragmites control program, compensate the failed acres by purchasing uplands buffers, and require Best Technology Available at the Salem 1 and 2 Generating Stations.
Water Fund/New Jersey Environmental Federation
 Orson, R.A.. A short history of Phragmites australis: Native, Introduced, or Invasive, and its implications on management strategies. Paper presented at Phragmites Workshop, April 17, 2000 sponsored by Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
 Ailstock, M.S.
Adaptive Strategies of Common Reed Phragmites
australis. Paper presented
at Phragmites Workshop, April 17, 2000 sponsored by Chesapeake Bay
National Estuarine Research Reserve
 Windham, Lisamarie. Effects of Phragmites invasion on heavy metal fluxes in salt marshes. Paper presented at Phragmites Workshop, April l7, 2000 sponsored by Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.
 Windham, Lisamarie.
Effects of Phragmites
invasion on heavy metal fluxes in salt marshes.
Paper presented at Phragmites Workshop, April l7, 2000 sponsored by
Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.
 Windham, Lisamarie. Effects of Phragmites invasion on heavy metal fluxes in salt marshes. Paper presented at Phragmites Workshop, April l7, 2000 sponsored by Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.