Did DEP collude with Bridge Point on the issuance of its flood hazard area permit? By Tirza Wahrman, Esq.


Photo by Engin Akyurt

January 21, 2024

Many of us are under the mistaken impression that the Bridge Point 8 Industrial Complex, with 5.5million square feet of warehouse space, is stalled and unlikely to move forward.

A careful look at a brief filed by the Watershed Institute this past October, challenging the DEP Flood Hazard Area Permit granted to BP8 on December 1, 2022, suggests that this is a project that may sneak by and receive the remaining approvals it needs. Note that the DEP has not yet filed a response to the Watershed Institute brief. We will  update this piece and share that with you when they do. 

The WI brief contains troubling information, suggesting that DEP staff work(ed) in concert” with the applicant (Bridge Point West Windsor, LLC) to give them a finding of “administrative completeness” in advance of the release of the Inland Flood Protection Rules. 

An excerpt from the Brief, page 10, footnote 9:

"... it appears that the DEP and the applicant were working in concert to avoid having to comply with the new rule in the event the application was not yet deemed complete for review by the time the rule was effective. It is not clear from this record why the DEP would have preferred the application be “grandfathered” rather than for the applicant to address all of the deficiencies in the permit application first and then be governed by the imminently forthcoming set of emergency regulations."

Based on meetings that members of the public (including me) attended with DEP staff when the permit was under review, it seems that this finding was designed to make sure the permit would be granted under the old, outdated flood maps.

In its brief, the Watershed Institute makes the compelling argument that as a matter of law, whether the long-delayed Rules were published yet or not, DEP should have applied the most recent precipitation data available before it granted the permit. IT FAILED TO DO SO. *See Brief, page 17.

Recalling the secrecy with which DEP staff treated the release date of the new Inland Flood Protection Rules when they met with concerned residents (note the release date was moved several times over a fourteen-month period), I have concerns that the applicant was treated very differently than members of the public, who are directly impacted by questionable decisions like this.

The lesson for our community: we must continue to press our DEP contacts and legislators about the colossal error DEP would be making if this project were allowed to go forward. 

Note that DEP has yet to issue a second Freshwater Wetlands Permit, required for this project. The proposed development, if approved, would sit on a 650-acre site and permit the construction of seven large warehouses on land that contains 64 acres pf precious wetlands, and was previously farmed. To quote the opening words of the Watershed Institute brief: “No one can control when and where it rains, but dangerous flooding can be anticipated and managed by good science and good governance.” *See Brief, page 1. We must demand the DEP protect Mercer County and not move forward with this ill-conceived project! Pay attention and stay vigilant!

What can you do? Send snail mail, post, call, tweet, tag or email the DEP and tell them to do their job and protect the future habitability of New Jersey:

commissioner@dep.nj.gov, Kandyce.Perry@dep.nj.gov, Ariana.Tsiattalos@dep.nj.gov, Ryan.Anderson@dep.nj.gov, Erin.Signor@dep.nj.gov, Dhruv.Patel@dep.nj.gov, Vincent.mazzei@dep.nj.gov, Peter.DeMeo@dep.nj.gov

Write to the Governor here.

Text Governor Murphy: (732) 605-5455

Tweet and tag - frequently
Here are the Twitter feeds of top journalists and public figures interested in environmental cases:
@jonahurdle, @mrMattSimon, @Kbratskeir, @AlexCKaufman, 

@elizabarclay, @iamjohnoliver, @lizabio, 

Tweet some more, then repeat...
#askgovmurphy @govmurphy @firstladyNJ @mattplatkin @jerseyoffice @NJsenTurner @philmurphy @shawnlatur @nancysolomon2 @newjerseyDEP @newjerseyDOT @newjerseyOAG @RepAndyKimNJ @RepBonnie

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