Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Great Adventure holds off on tree clearing for solar farm

Tom Johnson reports today for NJ Spotlight:

Great Adventure will not be cutting down any trees to build a huge solar farm — at least not anytime soon.
Six Flags, the parent company of the amusement park, agreed to hold off clearing 66 acres of woodland where it has won approval to build one of the state’s largest solar facilities until a court case contesting the plan is decided.
The decision marks a small victory for an array of state environmental organizations, which had sought to block the project put forward by the amusement park and solar developer KDC Solar. If allowed to go forward, as many as 16,000 trees would be cut down, according to foes.
The move is in response to an injunction filed with the court by opponents of the project, who include the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, New Jersey Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, Environment New Jersey, Save Barnegat Bay, and others.
The proposal would allow the park to build a 21.9-megawatt solar facility — enough to power about 3,000 homes — on forested land located between two major wildlife refuges. The project won approval from Jackson Township in March 2015.
In their initial lawsuit, the environmental groups argued the project violates Jackson Township’s master plan and a local tree-removal ordinance, which sets explicit regulations for tree preservation and removal.
The opponents also contended that the project is at odds with the state’s Energy Master Plan, which recommends that large solar projects avoid being located on existing open space and farmland and instead targeted to brownfields and closed garbage dumps.
Great Adventure should have heeded recommendations to relocate the project above the park’s parking lot, an option considered but largely rejected by the company. The project ultimately moved a small portion of the solar arrays to the parking facility.
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, one of the groups challenging the approval, argued that the township ignored its own planning regulations. “This area is clearly environmentally sensitive, contains threatened and endangered species, and protects water quality,’’ he said.
The court is not expected to render a decision in the case until the end of the year.
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