The sewers are coming! The sewers are coming!
That's what Buena Vista Township Mayor Peter Bylone, Estell Manor Mayor Joe Venezia and others either believe - or want their constituents to believe.
Except sewers are not coming to these rural towns - at least not any more sewers than what have been allowed since 1981 under the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan, according to Nancy Wittenberg, executive director of the Pinelands Commission.
So what gives?
Well, either Bylone and Venezia misunderstand the state sewer-mapping process (it is complicated). Or they purposely are creating an issue where there is none - a classic way to drum up political support.
It doesn't help that some environmental groups are also spouting "The sewers are coming! The sewers are coming!" as a result of the state sewer-mapping process that was completed this summer. They, too, like to drum up political support.
But our favorite explanation for the eruption of this nonissue: It's just a sign of the times in our politically fractious nation. Nobody believes or trusts anybody. Half-truths substitute for truths.
So in an effort to calm things down, allow us to explain.
First of all, many of you probably consider sewers a good thing. Certainly, they are an environmental plus when compared to septic systems. But they also can open the way for intensive development in rural areas. So folks who want their towns to stay rural don't like sewers much.
This summer, as part of a several-years-long process, counties were required to file a map with the state Department of Environmental Protection of sewer-service areas. The point is to ensure that counties are protecting environmentally sensitive land by steering growth to areas that already have the capacity to handle more sewage. And for the first time, communities in the Pine Barrens - like Buena Vista and Estell Manor - were included on these maps.
But the new maps didn't change anything in those Pinelands communities. The same rules that have applied since 1981 under the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan still apply. Those rules have always said that, subject to local approval, some limited sewerage is allowed in what are called Pinelands "villages." And that old fact is, for the first time, reflected in the new maps.
"This limited development potential has been permitted under the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan since 1981 and it is still all that will be allowed," Wittenberg, of the Pinelands Commission, said in an Aug. 26 letter to the editor.
Ah, but can the state and the Pinelands Commission be trusted? That's what Bylone and Venezia want to know.
"They keep saying there is no sewer coming. My question is why do you need the map then," said Bylone.
"The state is trying to push something down our throats without getting our input first," said Venezia.
Why don't they just ask to see Barack Obama's birth certificate, too?