Apparently the state Department of Environmental Protection isn't any more flexible with a fellow state agency than it is with a private homeowner or developer.
Certainly, to some degree, that's as it should be. The New Jersey Turnpike Authority, for example, should have to follow the same rules as anyone else. But at the very least, you would think there wouldn't be communication issues between the DEP and other state agencies.
Alas, that's not always the case.
A dispute - or, at least, some confusion or miscommunication - between the DEP and the Turnpike Authority threatened to delay the project to construct a new southbound Garden State Parkway span over the Great Egg Harbor Bay between Atlantic and Cape May counties.
Early last week, the Turnpike Authority said only the lack of DEP permits was holding up the $210 million project. The issue involved mitigation credits under stormwater management rules to compensate for natural areas lost due to the construction.
The authority had previously agreed to pay most of the costs to demolish the closed Route 9 Beesleys Point Bridge, which is owned by Cape May County, and had figured that removing the bridge and restoring the approaches to it would fulfill much of its mitigation requirements.
But the DEP - rather late in the game, if you ask us - balked at allowing mitigation credit for demolishing the bridge because it has been closed for five years. Since there has been no traffic on the bridge, and therefore no polluted runoff, the DEP wouldn't let the Turnpike Authority use the removal of the bridge as an offset under the stormwater rules.
At a meeting between the two agencies on Thursday, the Turnpike Authority agreed instead to add drainage swales to its construction project to meet stormwater rules. The DEP is apparently content with that approach, and permits are expected to be issued this month.
That's welcome news.
The sad saga of the Beesleys Point Bridge is well-known at this point. Once privately owned, by owners who allowed it deteriorate, it was purchased by Cape May County for $1 in 2008 with the intention of restoring it. Those plans were scrapped when estimates for the repairs came in at $32 million. The agreement for the Turnpike Authority to pay most of the demolition costs for the bridge as part of constructing the new Parkway span was a major plus for Cape May County taxpayers.
And the Turnpike Authority, rightly so, figured it could get mitigation credits for demolishing the old bridge. Open or not, it's still there. Removing it would clearly result in less stormwater runoff.
But at least now the parkway project is back on track. And that's good. The project involves replacing the current southbound span with a new one and refurbishing the northbound span. The work is critically needed - as are the construction jobs.