Contribute to Eco Bucks

Click here for latest news and updates


Back to court for drilling

Court: Zoning key to gas drilling

Delaware river basin to be tested before gas drilling starts

DEP fields questions on deepening stone quarry

Judge recommends cross country transmission line

Quarry wins vote to expand

Township faces long fight over powerline

Farmer in Chief

Bucks Countys Protector dies

Water-Starved California Slows Development

Rt 611 to get more development

Are we getting soaked

Upper Bucks' 'slice of heav

Geigel Hill Road bridge will be replaced this year

Modification could allow on-lot sewage disposal

PennDOT will dismantle GHR Bridge April 3

Tinicum continues hearing on Main Street plan

Route 611 to get more development

The Intelligencer

Water hookup soaks district

The Intelligencer

More police could mean more taxes

The Intelligencer

Not so thrilled on Blueberry Hill

The Intelligencer

Township considers groundwater protection

The Intelligencer, February 6, 2008

Township ponders grant for water data

The Intelligencer, February 6, 2008

Bedminster group plans to study wells

Montgomery Herald, 10/17/2007 .

Rolling Hills development hits snag in tracts soil analysis

Bucks County Herald

Does history repeat itself?

Bucks County Herald

Land planning is balancing act

The Intelligencer, Oct/08/2007

Water woes are back

The Intelligencer, Oct/08/2007

Hearing is cancelled

The Intelligencer, July 27, 2007

600 homes proposed in Tinicum

Hunterdon County Democrat, July 12, 2007

Milford farmers market

Hunterdon County Democrat, July 12, 2007

A power battle

The Intelligencer, June 01, 2007

Wells worry Nockamixon as quarry seeks to expand

Hunterdon County Democrat, May 31, 2007

Plumstead evaluates impact of sewer authority agreement

Bucks County Herald, May 30, 2007

Springfield comes out in force to opose sewage system

Bucks County Herald, May 30, 2007

Gardeners urged to use plants native to Pennsylvnia

The Intelligencer, May 30, 2007

Reasons for water study differ

The Intelligencer, May 27, 2007

Water, growth at center of sewer fight

The Intelligencer, April 22, 2007

Tinicum pledges $3 million for land

The Morning Call, April 20, 2007

Drilling closer in township

The Intelligencer, April 18, 2007

New Jersey voters urged to support land funding measure

Bucks County Herald, April 1, 2007

Taking farming back to basics

The Intelligencer, April 01, 2007

Officials tour 150-acre preserved tract in Frenchtown

Hunterdon County Democrat, March 22, 2007

Developer, Milford clash over plans for former paper-mill tract

Hunterdon County Democrat, March 22, 2007

Farm preservation deal under way

The Intelligencer, March 21, 2007


NJ DEP News Release, March 16, 2007

Officials worried project will disrupt waterway.

The Intelligencer, February 12, 2007

Central Bucks considers Plumstead properties.

The Intelligencer, February 15, 2007

Officials weigh limits on building plan submissions.

The Morning Call, February 12, 2007

A step toward natural gas drilling.

The Intelligencer, February 12, 2007

Residents irate as sewer bills triple.

The Intelligencer, February 11,, 2007

District seeks land for school

The Intelligencer, January 16, 2007

Sewer authority may raise rates by 80%

The Intelligencer, December 18, 2006

Tinicum hears plans for 611 development

Bucks County Herald, November 29, 2006

Residents turn out to oppose project

The Intelligencer, November 22, 2006

Developer seeks to build 285 homes in Tinicum

Hunterdon County Democrat, November 23, 2006

Tinicum OKs $200K more to preserve open space

Hunterdon County Democrat, October 26, 2006

Many houses, too little water

Letter to the Editor, The Intelligencer , October 2, 2006

Spanish town goes on strike over development

Guardian Unlimited, October 27, 2006

Candidates talk of trust at 143rd forum

The Intelligencer, October 25, 2006

Development rights dominate Tinicum meeting

Bucks County Herald, October 25, 2006

Nockamixon unveils groundwater ordinance

Bucks County Herald, October 11, 2006

Tinicum open space

Bucks County Herald, October 11, 2006

Tinicum spars over zoning application fees

Bucks County Herald, October 11, 2006


Eco-Justice Notes, October 6, 2006

Nockamixon quarry pays fines for polluting creek

Hunterdon County Democrat, September 28, 2006

Developers, grow away: Bucks to save 100th farm

The Morning Call, September 21, 2006


By Pat Whitacre

Bucks County Herald

The John Quinby family has permanently protected 199 acres on four parcels of land in the north east corner of Tinicum Township, bringing Tinicum's total to 5350 protected acres in the township. The Quinby family agreed to accept $729,000, or 50% of the appraised value of the conservation easements, from Tinicum's Open Space Funds, plus an additional $232,500 from the Bucks County Agricultural Preservation Program. This amounts to a generous charitable donation by the family of $496,500, the balance of the appraised value of the easements.

Tinicum Supervisor Boyce Budd, announcing the purchase, commented, "With the enthusiastic support of the County Commissioners and County Agricultural Preservation Board, we have preserved one of the most significant farms in the township."

Indeed, the gently rolling farmland would make ideal residential building lots and exemplifies those qualities Tinicum's Open Space Plan and Bucks County's programs seek to protect: Core habitat, scenic corridors, historic buildings, agricultural soils, and active farmland. In fact, the most recent acquisition of 102 acres was accomplished just as a developer was attempting to purchase it. The Tinicum Conservancy has been granted stewardship of the property and holds the easement along with the Township.

Open space protection is not a new concept for the Quinbys. When John's ancestors first settled in Tinicum, his great-great grandfather, Aaron Kohl, had a bakery in Upper Black Eddy, and in 1855 bought the farm where John and Joan Quinby now live. Over the years, more farmland was purchased, as the family expanded and farming operations required more land. But John adds that additional land was also purchased simply to protect the spectacular landscape, which includes views across the Delaware River into New Jersey. "In those days the idea was if you wanted to protect the open space around you, you bought it."

While most of the land the family bought over the years has remained open as farmland, John did subdivide the old Tettemer farm on Jugtown Hill Road into building lots in 1960. In what was a predecessor to today's concept of cluster development, he divided the land into 17 half acre building lots, reserving the remaining land for farming. When he started to build houses on these small lots, however, he realized that they were just too crowded, so he started selling several lots with each house, resulting in today's eight lots with one and a half acres per house. John and Joan's son Todd and his wife Trina live in one of these homes with their son Jimmy and daughters Patti Lynn and Jamie.

During John's tenure as Tinicum Township Supervisor from 1960 to 1977, Tinicum adopted its first zoning ordinance, tailoring its provisions to best suit our rural landscape instead of accepting the model being promoted by Bucks County. The development pressures that are facing today's supervisors are similar to those John experienced, including a proposed golf course surrounded by housing, and then a proposed quarry in the area below Smithtown Road.

Joan has also served the township, as tax collector for many years, as an auditor, and recently as a member of the Palisades School Board. These experiences have raised her awareness of how over development can affect everyone's taxes. She has also witnessed the destruction of the area around Roxborough where her mother grew up on a farm, of which Joan has fond memories. The land there has been subdivided and developed to such an extent that when Joan returned years later, she was unable to identify the place where her mother's house had stood.

One of the benefits of placing conservation easements on land can be the reduction of inheritance taxes, which sometimes force heirs to sell their family farms when faced with burdensome taxes. John explained that the Quinbys have never had to pay inheritance taxes because the younger generations have always bought the lands from their elders. Nevertheless, the charitable donation portion of the appraised value of their easement is eligible for deduction from their federal income taxes over a period of years.

The Quinbys were early proponents of the concept of conservation easements, and are long time members of the Tinicum Conservancy. After Bucks County established its Agricultural Land Preservation Program, the Quinbys applied for inclusion of their lands in the program in 1996. It was the Quinbys' other son, the late John James Quinby, who inspired the family to consider conservation easements. They had just bought Sky Island, another 102 acre farm adjoining their family farm, and wanted to prevent development of the land. Land in Tinicum was becoming increasingly expensive, and County funds would help to cover taxes and avoid financial pressures which might force the sale of some of this land. Unfortunately, the Quinby farm soils did not rank as high as other county agricultural lands, which were given priority for the limited county funds.

John and Joan are members of Emmanuel Reformed Episcopal Church of Four Brooks, which owned 60 acres around the intersection of Cafferty and Smithtown Roads. In 1997 the church subdivided the land into eight single family building lots, plus one lot for building a new church, and donating another lot to the township for recreation, where the tennis courts and skating pond have been developed. With John's guidance, conservation easements were placed on all lots to prevent further subdivision, and the Tinicum Conservancy was made steward of these lands.

Besides land preservation, John has helped to preserve Tinicum's historic architecture over the years with his restoration business, Quinby & Sons. Old stone houses he has restored have been featured in national magazines such as House Beautiful and McCalls. He has also built an authentic reproduction of a historic house, preserving the architectural details to blend in with Tinicum's scenery. Son Todd is in business with his father, specializing in excavation and water system maintenance, in addition to his farming activity. Today the Quinbys raise cattle and the hay to feed them, but in past generations an uncle raised chickens with a small hatchery, and farm surplus eggs, chickens and produce were marketed in Easton.

When Tinicum Township proposed its own Open Space bond referendum in 2002, the Quinbys supported its passage. As John observed at the time, "This is the only way we will ever qualify for funding for the preservation of our farm, to continue a long family way of life." The question of how much of the family lands could be preserved without the restrictions of a conservation easement becoming a financial burden for their farming operations required considerable thought and long range planning, which involved the concurrence of several generations of the Quinby family.

Farming has never been the sole source of income for the family, nor is there any guarantee that the youngest generation of Quinbys, now in their teens and early twenties, will want to continue to farm the land. Love of the land and animals is in their blood, however. Patti Lynn particularly loves caring for the calves on the farm. Jimmy works on the farm, cousin Peter helps during summer vacation, and Jamie, the youngest, loves to pitch a tent in a remote corner to camp out with friends. Under the terms of their conservation easement, farming operations and necessary supporting buildings are permitted, so that option remains open.

Will the multiple generations of Quinbys continue to live on and enjoy their protected lands? John and Joan's married daughter Barbara left the farm after graduation from Syracuse University and lives in Maine. She has fond memories of socials in the parlor of the main farmhouse when her grandparents lived there, and plans to return here to pursue a career after son Peter graduates from high school, the same year that she expects to receive another graduate degree as a literacy specialist.

As the multiple generations require separate homes, they can be accommodated. Several Quinby houses in the immediate vicinity are currently income-producing rental properties, which could house Quinbys, and under the terms of the conservation easements they have the right to build several additional new homes on large lots. Easements do not prevent the sale of these lands, but restrict in perpetuity their further development. Unlike Joan's experience in returning to her family's former home area and being unable to recognize the site of the family home, future generations of the Quinbys, and their visiting relatives, will always be able to enjoy the landscape that is so filled with family memories today.

A recent letter from a cousin, whose childhood home was adjacent to the farm, reads: "Just wanted to say congratulations on the farm land preservation, and how happy I am for you. Those fields hold so many memories of being with Pop and Grandpop, bringing in baled hay, the hay hook that got caught in my kneecap (that was a bummer!), being on the thresher with Grandpop and changing and tying the bags of wheat, Grandpop getting a 10 yr old (me) to back a 14 gear truck out of the shed and taking the door off, etc. It is nice to know that not only do I have wonderful memories, but that visually I'll still be able to see the land so well loved."

Joan sums up the family's feelings about conserving the properties: "In 1996 the seed was sown and now we harvest it." Seated in comfortable rockers on the porch overlooking the blossoming remnants of "Grammy Quinby's flower garden", John adds, "We are truly blessed to have ended up where we are; this is a Lord's blessing."

Tax freeze may help preserve land

Intelligencer - June 26, 2006

Bedminster and East Rockhill townships have voted to freeze property taxes for landowners who have preserved their property as open space.

But these people won't reap the benefits unless Bucks County and the Pennridge School District agree to do the same.

Township officials recently passed an ordinance that would apply to residents who have, or will, preserve their land as open space or place an easement on their agricultural land barring future development.

By doing this, officials hope to encourage more land preservation and try to halt or slow the pace of development, especially in a township like Bedminster that has seen tremendous growth in recent years.

Nearly 700 new homes are expected to be built in Bedminster within the next four or five years, which will increase the number of homes in the township by about 35 percent, based on census figures that placed the number of housing units at 1,868 in 2000. 

"Tax increases come from development," said Supervisor Eric Schaffhausen. "People who move into developments don't pay their way. They're subsidized by everyone else."

Bedminster and East Rockhill officials are not sure exactly how many properties would be eligible. As for the money that would be lost if the tax caps go into effect, Schaffhausen called it a "modest" sum for Bedminster.

School districts have had the ability to freeze property taxes for years, and some, including Central Bucks, have taken advantage of it with the hope of cutting down on the number of new homes built and thereby the number of additional school children in the community.

But earlier this year, state legislators amended the law to allow local governments to freeze real estate taxes for owners who've given up their right to develop their land. A landowner would never be hit with another property tax increase from the date the measure became effective.

But the law says the county and the local school district have to agree to do the same before this can take effect. And getting all three parties on board could pose a problem.

"I think the county can be convinced. The Pennridge School District may be a harder nut to crack," said Schaffhausen. "They are scarce of funds. They have an enormous building program. They may be the most reluctant to agree to this. But if the county agrees, it puts pressure on the school."

Members of the Pennridge School Board have not discussed the idea as a group yet, and will likely do so at a finance committee meeting this summer. Speaking for herself, school board member Kathy Donovan said that while she supports open space, she has to examine the pros and cons of this scenario before deciding.

"I don't know if I agree to a freeze, but if it's possible, maybe a smaller percentage (of tax increase for preserved properties) or not escalated at the same rate."

Pennridge's business administrator, Robert Reinhart, said he is not sure how many properties in the district would be eligible, but will put together an analysis for the board "to judge the cost of doing something like that."

In 2000, the Central Bucks School District agreed to freeze tax rates for people with preserved land. As of February, about 140 properties in the district qualify for the tax cap, said Tom McCambridge, the district's finance director. He said the district lost about $90,000 in taxes this year - a relatively small amount, considering Central Bucks is operating with a $226 million budget. The district's tax rate has increased about 40 percent since the tax caps went into effect.

As for the county, it is also considering the idea and is trying to figure out which properties would be affected and the potential financial impact, said Commissioner Jim Cawley. Any decision made would likely affect the entire county, not just one municipality, he said.

For a property to be eligible, it can be preserved using several different methods, including preserved as open space by a local government or through the county's agricultural easement program, which to date includes 98 farms countywide, said Lynn Bush, executive director of Bucks' planning commission.

Another 100 or so properties have been preserved through the county's open space program, she said. Bush was not sure how many properties individual municipalities have saved on their own.

Bucks County forming new open space task force

Intelligencer - Jun/22/2006

Bucks County's government wants help as it develops the next phase of its open space preservation program.

Jim Cawley, the chairman of the county commissioners, said Wednesday that the county will be accepting resumes through July for appointments to a new open space task force.

In 1997, voters passed a referendum allowing the county to borrow $59 million to preserve farmland, parkland and other undeveloped properties. That money runs out next year, however.

County officials want to extend the program, but haven't decided how much money they'd want to do so.

They also haven't said what changes, if any, would be made to the current program. Officials have floated the idea of expanding the program - to allow for historic preservation, for instance, or building trails on already preserved land - but no decisions have been made yet.

Cawley said the members of the new task force will help county leaders decided what to do.

People interested in serving on the task force are asked to send resumes and letters of interest to Bucks County chief operating officer, David Sanko, at the Bucks County Courthouse, 55 E. Court St., Fifth Floor, Doylestown, PA.

Members will be announced in August.

There's no timeframe yet on when the new group would make its suggestions, but Cawley said the county will need the task force's recommendations in time to hold another open space referendum next year, either in the spring or the fall.

The task force will be patterned after one the county created in the 1990s for the current round of the open space program.

Cawley said members of that group should be reporting back to county leaders in the coming weeks with their evaluation of how well the program has worked since the 1997 referendum.

Cawley said it's also possible some people from the old task force will serve on the new one.

Separately Wednesday, commissioners approved spending nearly $226,000 to buy the development rights to 151 acres of farmland in Tinicum.

The township is also paying more than $600,000 for the land.


300 more acres preserved

Intelligencer - Jun/21/2006

Nearly 300 acres in Tinicum have been preserved, including a 180-acre property called "eminently developable" that has become the largest piece of land preserved under the township's open space program.

Tinicum Supervisors agreed Tuesday to use nearly $1 million of open space money to preserve 105 acres on East Dark Hollow Road, as well as a combined 180 acres owned by the Quinby family dispersed among properties on Upper Tinicum Church, Red Cliff, and Jugtown Hill roads.

Additionally, the township has also given preliminary approval to spend another $127,032 to conserve two more properties - 21 acres on Ridge Valley Road and 39 acres on Geigel Hill Road. A mandatory two-week public comment period must first be held.

The township has agreed to purchase these conservation easements, which prevents further development there.

The announcement of these preserved lands was a huge victory for the township's open space commission, which is in a race against developers who are actively trying to push into the township, one of the last remaining rural spots in Bucks County.

Two builders - Piper Group Inc. and Main Street Development -have plans for more than 600 housing units that could be built in the coming years.

The Quinby properties will be preserved for a total of $961,500. Tinicum will pay $729,000, with Bucks County contributing the remaining $232,500 under its agricultural preservation program.

These properties are next to other preserved properties and together will form two-and-a-half miles along Upper Tinicum Church Road, from Eagle Hill to Red Cliff roads, that is protected, said Norm MacArthur, a member of the open space commission.

"That's probably a county first, that much contiguous property," he said.

The Quinby land is "one of the few working farms in Tinicum," said Supervisor Boyce Budd, and was "an eminently developable piece of land." Under the conservation agreement, the land can continue to be farmed.

Edwin and Jean Rushton have also conserved their 105 acres on East Dark Hollow Road for a total cost of $745,990, with $255,990 coming from the township and the remaining $490,000 from a grant from the Bucks County Natural Areas program.

"This is one of the largest grants we've gotten from the county," said MacArthur.

The cost to conserve their land represents two-thirds of the actual appraised value of their development rights, he said.

In 2000, Tinicum was eligible to receive more than $500,000 in open space money from the county. A couple of years later, township voters agreed to borrow $5 million for preservation efforts.

To date, about $1.9 million has been spent, with another $1.6 million committed to properties for future preservation. More than 900 acres have been donated by landowners, said Pat Whitacre, a member of the open space commission

Through various efforts, the township has preserved more than 5,100 acres.


Boom and Bust

Intelligencer - Jun/21/2006

Every township in Central and Upper Bucks grew in population between 2000 and 2005, while just about every borough lost population.

Meanwhile, Eastern Montgomery County saw a mixed pattern, with the largest percentage growth in Montgomery Township and Hatfield Borough. From Jenkintown to Souderton, many boroughs there also lost population.

That is according to mid-decade population estimates being released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The notable exception to the population pattern in Bucks was Ivyland, which saw the largest percentage growth of all.

"When we used to have the Memorial Day parade, we'd joke that there were more people in the parade than there were spectators," cracked Robert Severn, who has lived in the tiny borough for 32 years. "The spectators would follow the parade to give the illusion of a crowd."

Ivyland's growth came from the Ivyland Village neighborhood and a mix of single-family homes and townhouses built on the former Navy base, said Severn, president of Ivyland's borough council. The residential growth has been a plus for the borough, he said.

"Ivyland with 400-some people was doing OK, but when you wanted to run an event or get people to run for office, we were thin on the ground," Severn said.

"I thought that adding more people would have a good effect as long as we attracted people that were interested in becoming Ivyland citizens. We have no homeowners associations; we want everyone to be part of Ivyland. By and large, it seems to have succeeded," he said.

Richland, Warrington and Warwick townships all posted significant population gains, too, with Warrington adding the largest overall number of people, 4,440.

Most of that is due to new age-restricted neighborhoods, such as Blue Stone Creek on County Line Road, Lamplighter Village at Street and Folly roads and Forest Ridge at Bristol and Pickertown, said township Supervisor Glenn McKay.

More houses could be on the horizon.

Another 700 units have been approved but not yet built, and an additional 900 units could be built according to the township's existing zoning, McKay said.

"Whether they're developed in the next 10 years depends on the demand in the overall real estate market," he said. "As we've seen, development has dramatically slowed because of rising interest rates. Still, we definitely have a lot on our plate."

With few exceptions, local population losses were recorded in boroughs. Perkasie, Quakertown, Sellersville, Telford and Hatboro were among the boroughs that lost an estimated 1 percent to 2 percent of their residents. Townships nearest Philadelphia - Abington and Upper Moreland - also were projected to have lost 1 percent of their populations.

The U.S. Census Bureau produces population estimates nationwide, based, it said, on census 2000 population counts, updated using information on building permits and other figures.


Brook trout on decline in eastern USA, study finds

By Tom Kenworthy, 
USA TODAY - Wed May 3, 2006

A three-year study of brook trout populations concludes that the popular sport fish has disappeared or markedly declined in nearly half of the eastern U.S. areas where it once thrived.

The plight of the small, olive green trout is detailed in a report to be released today by a coalition of conservation groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, fish and game departments from 17 states, and universities.

"Brook trout are the canary in the coal mine when it comes to water quality," said Gary Berti of Trout Unlimited in a statement. "Declining brook trout populations can provide an early warning that the health of an entire stream, lake or river is at risk."

Once plentiful in streams and rivers from Maine to South Carolina, brook trout - or "brookies," as they're known to anglers - have been greatly reduced by development in the eastern USA. Large populations remain in just 5% of the areas they inhabited before colonization of the United States, notably in Maine and the mountains of Vermont, New Hampshire, New York and Virginia.

The detailed report will be used to guide future recovery and conservation efforts aimed at keeping brook trout off the endangered species list, said Chris Wood, vice president for conservation programs for Trout Unlimited.

"The overall intent is to avoid what's happened in the West," where many salmon and trout species are on the endangered list, Wood said.

The assessment is the first project by a coalition of state and federal wildlife agencies and conservation groups that joined in 2001 to protect and restore streams and rivers for fish.

The National Fish Habitat Action Plan is patterned on a similar effort for ducks and other waterfowl begun in the 1980s.

The brook trout study found that the fish have been eliminated from 19% of the territory they once occupied and greatly reduced in an additional 27%.

Brook trout require cold, clean water to survive and are extremely sensitive to water temperatures above 68 degrees, conditions that often occur when stream and river areas are developed or lose shade.

States where brook trout have declined the most include Georgia, Maryland, South Carolina, North Carolina and New Jersey. The report assessed habitat used by both native fish and the offspring of hatchery bred fish stocked in streams.

New nonprofit group targets Delaware River flooding, pollution

Delaware Valley News - May 04, 2006
By Kevin J. Guhl

A new nonprofit organization -- the Delaware Riverside Conservancy --says its aim is to protect communities along the Delaware River from flood and pollution.

Already, the group has taken legal action over PPL's coal fly ash spill into the river and the possibly negligent operation of New York reservoirs during the Delaware River flood of April 2005.

DRC member Bill Vogt said, "After the flooding of last year, we went to different township meetings, DRBC (Delaware River Basin Commission) meetings and met with people up and down the river and even some on tributaries that go into the river. Everybody agreed that it seemed the people that regulate the river such as FEMA, the DRBC and even some of the environmental groups think its natural for the river to flood and everyone that lives on the river should move or raise their houses higher. No on was really concerned with the increasing flood levels."

Although the DRC is "more or less an educational group," it has filed a tort claim against New York City for allegedly negligent operations of its reservoirs preceding and during the April 2005 flood.

"The New York City reservoirs both released water through their gates and spilled water over the top during the flood. They could have closed the gates but didn't bother," said Vogt. "The (water) that came over the spillway could have been drastically lessened if only they had lowered their overfilled reservoirs prior to the April rain event. On April 3 alone they spilled and released 20 billion gallons of water into the river."

"No one thought that there would be that much water coming down from that bit of rain," said Vogt.

Vogt said New York City reservoirs, which draw water from the Delaware River, were already "100 percent full" at the time of the flood as operators failed to gradually release water in the days before the flood.

"None of them lowered their reservoirs when they heard there was a second storm coming," said Vogt.

New York Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Ian Michaels said, "Sometimes the finger gets pointed at New York City because New York City owns (the reservoirs)."

"New York City does not unilaterally control the flow of water downstream from those reservoirs," Michaels said.

The release of water from those reservoirs has to be agreed upon unanimously by the other parties that govern the reservoirs, including the Delaware River Basin Commission and the states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Michaels said the water level in the Delaware River reservoirs is kept high for New York City's water use and for transportation and commerce downstream.

Michaels said he could not discuss the specifics of what happened with the reservoirs during the flood because it is under litigation. However, he said there were "extraordinary weather events."

"I'd like to see the DRBC take flood control more seriously. I'd like to see some modeling done of the river with reservoirs to see if anything can be done by lowering the reservoirs to help reduce future flooding. I'd like to see better safety inspections of the reservoirs. If one ever failed, there would be a giant title wave that came down the river," said Vogt.

DRC's attorney, Jeff Russo, has filed a class action lawsuit in state Superior Court in Warren County on behalf of Delaware River residents affected by the Aug. 23, 2005, basin leak of approximately 100 million gallons of toxic coal fly ash into the river and area surrounding power company PPL's Martins Creek power plant in Northampton County, Pa.

According to Russo, the lawsuit he filed March 30 will seek punitive damages from PPL. Russo said the lawsuit claims the spill resulted not only in the contamination of the river and the violation of environmental statutes but personal damage to river residents' properties and negative impact on their "use...pride and enjoyment" of the river.

Russo is also claiming that PPL acted too slowly in its cleanup, causing heavy rains to further distribute ash deposits, and never shut down its coal operation (following the spill), making new fly ash and illegally putting it in an unlined basin. That basin sprung as a leak, as well, he said.

Russo said that notice of the class action suit will be sent to property owners and tenants along the 40 miles of the river from the Martins Creek plant to the Bulls Island area, allowing them to take part.

Property values could be adversely affected by the spill, said Russo.

Russo had filed a class action lawsuit against PPL in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court on behalf of the Delaware Riverside Conservancy, a group of river residents affected by the spill, and other individuals. The lawsuit was filed to coincide with the Pa. Department of Environmental Protection's lawsuit in the same court against PPL, which serves as an enforcement action against the power company.

However, a judge told Russo the Commonwealth Court was not the right place for the class action suit, so Russo filed it in Warren County, where the suit could come to trial. However, the Delaware Riverside Conservancy remains a party in the DEP lawsuit.

Arsenic levels in drinking water at Palisades Middle School exceed state levels

Delaware Valley News - May 04, 2006
By Kevin J. Guhl

Higher-than-acceptable levels of arsenic were found in recent of drinking water at Palisades Middle School.

The water, sampled on Feb. 28, was found to have 0.043 milligrams per liter of arsenic. This is above the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 0.010 milligrams per liter allowed by the state Department of Environmental Protection. However, the MCL was 0.050 milligrams per liter until the DEP changed the MCL on Jan. 23. Under the previous MCL, the drinking water at Palisades Middle School would have been considered safe.

Palisades is awaiting water-test results from its other schools and anticipates levels above the new standard in Durham-Nockamixon Elementary School and Palisades High School, since those wells feed off the same aquifer, according to Superintendent Francis Barnes. Additional samples were being taken at Palisades Middle School.

Dave Keppel, the district's facilities manager, said the district is working with a water consultant to find ways to lower the arsenic levels. In late 2005, the district was considering the purchase of three filtration units for $30,000 each, which were to be installed at Durham-Nockamixon Elementary School, Palisades High School and Palisades Middle School. Barnes said other options are now being considered.

The school district has been working with Suburban Energy and Environmental Consultants and the state DEP, along with several companies that offer different treatment techniques.

Nancy Roncetti, DEP spokeswoman, said the state arsenic MCL is based on standards set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency,

With Palisades in violation of the new standard, the DEP is working with the district to come up with a timeframe for compliance and a way to lower the MCL.

"They have been proactively approaching the problem," said Roncetti. "It's not the kind of thing that you can (do) overnight."

DEP spokesman John Fabian said that arsenic appears to be concentrated in northern Bucks County rock formations.

Barnes said, in a letter to district parents that the district has always complied with DEP standards.

Palisades routinely monitors the wells at all of its schools for drinking water contaminants. According to Barnes' letter, "Arsenic is a naturally occurring element in some groundwater systems in various areas such as ours and hence detected in drinking water. Bucks County has the highest concentration of arsenic in groundwater in Pennsylvania. This is not an immediate risk. However, some people who drink water containing arsenic in excess of the MCL over many years could experience skin damage or problems with their circulatory system, and may have an increased risk of getting cancer. If you have specific health concerns consult with your doctor."

Since this situation could also affect household wells, the school district is encouraging everyone to have their well water tested for arsenic and other contaminants.

Preserved farmland includes headwaters of Tinicum Creek

By Pat Whitacre

Bucks County Herald - April 27, 2006

Five years of negotiations have finally culminated in the permanent protection of 50 acres of Tinicum farmland on Oak Grove Road. Containing the headwaters of a tributary of the Tinicum Creek, designated as scenic landscape in the Open Space Plan, and consisting of agricultural soils of statewide importance, this was one of the earliest parcels of land the township's Open Space Commission hoped to protect with part of the township's original County open space funds.

Because the original owner wanted to reserve the option of building five houses on the property, this didn't fit the OSC's definition of open space preservation. After the tract was then sold in its entirety, the OSC began talking to the new owner, Rick Patt, about the importance of land preservation, and the potential tax benefits to the landowner.

The parcel was one of several possible sites the township considered for purchase as the recreation land it is seeking in western Tinicum, but Patt preferred a more passive use for the fields surrounding his historic home and farm buildings, which are on a separate parcel.

Hoping to attract a buyer interested in animal pastureland, Patt listed the property for sale, but was alarmed by how quickly an anonymous buyer met his asking price. He withdrew his property from the market, incurring legal fees to break the tentative sale, and later discovered that the rejected buyer was indeed a major developer.

Convinced now that placement of a conservation easement was the only way to exercise some control over the use of this property under future ownership, Patt resumed discussions with the OSC. He sent letters to his neighbors announcing that his property would only be sold after such a protective easement was in place.

Rejecting an offer from a developer to buy the land for placement of a sewage treatment plant, Patt continued to work out details of selling his development rights to Tinicum Township, a process which required agreement by the bank holding his mortgage to subordinate the mortgage. By December 2005, all parties were ready to close the deal.

A closing date was set, and Tinicum Township prepared a check, but two days before the closing, the bank notified Patt that it had decided to require new conditions on its necessary consent, which forced cancellation of all plans. Patt opted to seek a new mortgage with a new bank, which then required four more months to complete the approval process.

Patt's patience and determination to preserve his land were rewarded at last with the recent signing of a conservation easement. Under terms to be enforced by Tinicum Township, and monitored annually by the Tinicum Conservancy, the rolling farmland surrounding Patt's historic farm is now permanently protected. 

Wawa urged to do more

Bucks County Herald - Apr/27/2006

Kurth and Dottie Honer walked out of the meeting Wednesday, resolved to test their well for MTBE, a gasoline additive discovered in Plumsteadville area wells last spring.

They were among about 70 residents who attended a township-sponsored meeting where residents asked Wawa about what it has been doing to address a leak discovered at its Route 611 site last summer.

"It's definitely not cured," Kurth Honer said after the meeting. Honer said he knew the chemical, a suspected carcinogen, would become a problem even before it was first added to fuel in the 1970s. Unlike other chemicals in gas, it travels quickly and easily with water. 
Wawa environmental manager Matt Winters said the Plumsteadville store stopped selling fuel with MTBE last weekend. The federal government no longer requires that oxygenates such as MTBE, which make fuel burn more cleanly, be added to gasoline.

The store also has repaired its system, which apparently allowed the chemical to escape in vapor form into the ground. The leak was discovered last spring, after Fitzgerald's Auto Repair Service, located two doors south, pulled a tank and discovered the contamination. Several months later the state Department of Environmental Protection told Wawa it was contributing to the problem.

Wawa officials said the level of the chemical in area wells has dropped since it fixed its system. And Wawa continues to monitor about 55 wells in the area, most to the north and east of the store, they said. Wawa is also providing filtration systems at five of those sites, including the Clemens Market plaza on the other side of the highway.

But some - including residents and the DEP - say the store needs to do more.

The DEP wants Wawa to provide filtration to 16 additional sites, including a township well that serves 537 homes in the Cabin Run and Landis Green developments.

Wawa is considering the request, Winters said in an interview. But he also said water at those sites "is safe to drink." He pointed to state drinking water guidelines. Those say that water with MTBE levels of 20 parts per billion or more is unfit to drink. The levels at the additional sites are less than that. The Cabin Run well, for instance, was recently tested at 1.4 parts per billion.

But the DEP says it now interprets the underground storage tank law differently.

"Those regulations require that a party who's responsible for contamination must replace any affected or diminished water supplies," spokesman Dennis Harney said in an interview. The department has decided that anything above 0.5 parts per billion - the smallest amount that can be accurately measured - is affected. However, Wawa could argue for a higher limit if it can establish what level existed in groundwater before its leak.

Wawa said it would dig a couple of additional wells to gauge how deep the contaminant goes, which Wawa also requested after the store completed a 500-page report in late February.

Harney said the DEP could make additional requests. It is still reviewing the report. 
At the meeting, some suggested more should be done to understand where the chemical has moved and to make sure all residents are protected.

Resident Donna Huff said the level of MTBE - or methyl tertiary-butyl ether - has gone up in her well. It's about 0.6 when it was previously 0.544. She advised other residents to have their own wells tested. She said Wawa began monitoring her well after she showed the store there was MTBE in her water.

Another resident, Sue McDonald was critical of the store, saying she does not think it is working quickly enough to address the problem. She said that Fitzgerald's, a small business, quickly found out how deep and far the chemical had traveled from its site. A Fitzgerald's representative also spoke at the meeting, outlining what it has done to address the leak at its site. 

Wrightstown man lends support to Toll opponents

Bucks County Herald - Apr/27/2006

Gene Epstein has spent more than $50,000 in legal fees in five years fighting to keep Toll Brothers from adding water and sewer lines to service a Wrightstown development.
The retired car dealer succeeded in preventing the lines, which he said would bring more homes. Reducing development seemed a far cry for someone who had been a Toll shareholder at one time.

That was before Epstein, a 30-year Wrightstown resident, said he saw the builder devising a "master plan to break the zoning, to break the jointure."

Now Epstein said he will dole out $1,000 to a group looking to battle Toll over plans to build 210 homes as part of a deal to bring a national veterans cemetery to Lower Bucks. On April 5, the Upper Makefield supervisors amended zoning to accommodate the cemetery and denser housing than is permitted. The move, opposed by Upper Makefield residents who fear suburban sprawl, extra traffic and the loss of open space, was the first of many approvals needed to make the cemetery a reality.

Bucks attorneys have differing views on whether rezoning would set a precedent for the jointure, which comprises Upper Makefield, Newtown Township and Wrightstown. But Epstein is sure that any developer-driven rezoning would kick open the door for uncontrolled development.

"I don't care what lawyer for the township is going to say, "There's a small probability of anyone ever challenging the zoning again' ... that's a crock," Epstein said. "Once they change it, it can be changed anywhere."

Tim Vile, of the 80-member Save Historic Dolington Committee, welcomes Epstein's help. His group has raised money and fought Toll's plans for the 311-acre Dolington parcel for almost a decade. Toll intends to sell 200 acres to the VA for $7 million and build 90 homes on the remaining acres. Toll would also build 120 homes on the 94-acre Melsky tract, situated on Stoopville Road in Upper Makefield and Newtown Township and owned by Council Rock School District.

Vile said his group plans to "join forces" with township residents outraged by Toll's demands for high density housing.

"This is the highest amount of determination that I have ever seen out of Upper Makefield residents," Vile said. "We have well over 1,000 people that I think will also put money behind the signatures that they placed on the petitions."

Toll Brothers, Upper Makefield solicitor John Rice or Supervisor Robert West could not be reached for comment.

Happy trails ahead for Bucks?

Bucks County Herald - Apr/27/2006

Bucks County's government is being pressured to beef up the county's trail system for hiking and biking.

Several local councils and boards want the county to make trails a priority and some are asking the county to help pay for them.

Recreational and health benefits, as well as getting some cars off the roads, would be worth the expense, supporters say.

County leaders weren't committing to anything last week, but they said they may consider investing in trails if they see strong interest.

Many of the 54 townships and boroughs that make up Bucks County already have their own trail systems. Officials in places such as Doylestown, New Britain Township and Buckingham now want help extending and linking them.

"I don't think we can do it from the inside out," said Barbara Lyons, a Doylestown Township supervisor who's been spearheading the push for more county involvement. "I think it has to be from looking at it, taking a complete picture of all of the municipalities, what's in place now, and how best to link it."

The county already does have a plan for trails - it calls them "link parks" - but that document hasn't been updated since 1986. Bucks officials have long talked about setting up paths along the Neshaminy Creek, for instance, but its trails thus far are limited to county parks.
Bill Mitchell, Bucks' director of parks and recreation, estimated that there are now about 20 miles of county trails.

For comparison's sake, Lyons said Doylestown Township and Doylestown Borough already have about 12 miles of trails on their own, and they're planning for another 10 miles.
Many local officials, meanwhile, are pointing to Montgomery County as a guide for what they want Bucks to do.

John Wood, chief of open space planning for the Montgomery County Planning Commission, said that county's government is responsible for more than 45 miles worth of trails, and plans to add another 22 miles by the end of 2007.

It already has paths that snake throughout the county - the Perkiomen Trail, for instance, spans 19 miles through 10 municipalities - and Wood said Montgomery has been working on links to both local trails and larger trail systems in places such as Philadelphia, Chester and Berks counties.

All that work isn't cheap; Wood said the county has a $17.9 million budget for the 30 miles of trails built recently or still in the works. Montgomery is getting some outside help for that, including about $6.3 million from the federal government, but county taxpayers are still paying the bulk of it.

Wood said residents consider the expense worthwhile, however.

"It certainly enhances the communities," he said. "It's actually becoming a domino effect - the more you build, the more people want it."

Stephanie Mason, Doylestown Township's manager, said greater involvement by Bucks County's government could help local groups get state grants.

The county could also help pay for trail work, she said, by including it as part of a planned extension of Bucks' open space preservation program.

In 1997, county government held a referendum asking voters for permission to borrow $59 million to conserve undeveloped land. The measure passed handily.

That money's set to run out next year, however, and county officials are just beginning to plan for how to extend the preservation program.

Commissioner Charley Martin said he has yet to hear from residents or local leaders about the push for trails.

He also said county planners are already busy with other projects. "There's watershed plans, there's traffic plans, there's so many areas of planning that everything can't be a top priority," he said. "But certainly if there's an interest, we'll look into it."

Meanwhile, Jim Cawley, the chairman of Bucks' commissioners, said officials could consider dedicating some part of a renewed open space program to trails. "We want to be open to new ideas, and everything is on the table," he said.

Lyons said she's confident the county will eventually get more invested in trails. "I believe our commissioners are going to see this and seize this opportunity to create a system that can be a showplace for other counties," she said. "There's no reason why we can't."


Winery loses appeal

Bucks County Herald - Apr/27/2006

For a second time, Susan Gross and Robert Kolmus, owners of the Peace Valley Winery, were unsuccessful in their attempt to challenge a New Britain Township zoning ordinance that decreased the minimum lot size around much of Lake Galena but restricted development there by preserving agricultural soils.

The Commonwealth court rejected the appeal of last year's Bucks County court decision that sided with the township's denial of the winery owners' zoning challenge.

In supporting the lower court ruling last week, the court said the township acted correctly when, in 2003, it rejected Gross's and Kolmus's challenge of a 5-acre minimum lot size around the lake, including the winery. At the time, the township's attorney, John Rice, said the challenge was denied because an ordinance was already pending when Gross and Kolmus filed their challenge.

In December 2000, after months of discussion, the board of supervisors replaced the 5-acre zoning with a 1.9-acre minimum lot size. They attempted to further limit development by preserving agricultural soils.

The supervisors later changed the ordinance, offering developers half-acre lots when they set aside 50 percent of the land; 1.8-acre lots without set-asides; or 1-acre lots with 40 percent set-asides.

Kolmus and Gross proposed 40 single-family houses on their 37-acre property.
Gross said she had no comment regarding the court's decision.

Nockamixon sets second forum on oil and gas drilling

By Kevin J. Guhl
Delaware Valley News - April 27, 2006

Nockamixon Township is sponsoring a second oil and gas forum on Wednesday, May 10. This one will focus on a proposed ordinance that would limit drilling in parts of the township. It will be held at 7 p.m. at the Palisades High School auditorium.

Both forums were organized by Nockamixon Township residents. The township agreed to spend $1,000 for the first forum, held April 3. It ended up costing about $500, so the remainder is funding a second forum, said Supervisor Nancy Janyszeski.

Approximately 150 people attended the first forum, which focused on the oil and gas leases that Michigan-based prospector Arbor Resources has been approaching people to sign, in exchange for potential royalties.

If approved by township supervisors, Nockamixon's ordinance would forbid drilling in the village center and resource protection areas. Drilling wouldn't be restricted in residential areas. Supervisors plan to vote following a public hearing at the township building on Thursday, May 18 at 7:30 p.m.

"We wanted to get the forum in before the public hearing," said organizer Kathi Throckmorton, "so (residents) can go to that public hearing and voice whether they want it in residential or not."

As before, panelists will present information and answer questions. While the list is not finalized, Throckmorton said she would like to include returning water experts Phil Getty and Mark Gallagher, a real estate appraiser, principals from Arbor Resources, and a representative from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
"We're trying to bring in people who can bring qualified answers," said Throckmorton. 
Arbor landman Dave Schriml, who was in the audience at the first forum and answered questions, said he felt it was organized by environmentalists opposed to the proposed drilling operation.

"They thought they could come in there and discredit oil and gas. They don't want to hear the facts... All they want to do is discredit us," Schriml said. "State law supercedes anything that the township might do. That's clearly in the code," he added. He said Arbor will do its best to comply and "get along" with the township, but said there might come an instance in which Arbor will do what is allowed by the state, even if it conflicts with township rules.

Arbor has signed leases to drill or withdraw gas from beneath the properties of about 300 residents, totaling about 4,000 acres.

It would like to have leases for another 6,000 acres, but has enough to start drilling and is getting together a permit application, said Schriml. Barring setbacks, it takes about 30 days to get a state drilling permit, he said. 

Commissioners preserve 212 acres of farmland, 70 acres of open space

by Bridget Wingert
Bucks County Herald - April 12, 2006

In one meeting last week, the Bucks County commissioners approved preservation of 212 acres of farmland and 70 acres of open space.

The farmland is divided between Bedminster and Springfield townships, the open space in West Rockhill and Milford townships.

The commissioners acted on the land preservation April 5, at an on-the-road meeting at Linden Elementary School in Doylestown.

The commissioners unanimously approved conservation easements for the Buckman farm, on Center School Hill Road, Perkasie, a dairy and crop farm in the township's Agricultural Security Area and adjacent to 400 acres of preserved farmland.

The owners accepted $2,087,179 or $12,000 an acre for 173.9316 acres. An acre had an appraised market value of $22,000. The total cost of the easement was divided among state, county and township. The state's share was $887,051.16; Bucks County, $591,367; Bedminster Township, $695,726.

Also unanimously approved was the Cressman crop farm, 2455 Township Road, Springfield Township. The conservation easement is on 37.61 acres in the township's Agricultural Security Area. The farm is surrounded by more than 300 acres of preserved farmland.

The family accepted $376,145, or $10,000 an acre for the farm, which was 95.24 percent of the full easement value determined by a professional appraisal. The cost was divided evenly between the state and county, with each contributing $188.072.50.

Under the commissioners' open space and farmland preservation programs, Bucks County has preserved 97 farms, totaling approximately 8,700 acres. The county developed its Agricultural Land Preservation Program to protect the farming heritage and agricultural economy.

At the meeting, the commissioners also approved requests from the Natural Lands Trust for grants to protect the three following properties in the Natural Areas Program: 
- $45,000 for-5.1-acres, 2295 Esten Road, West Rockhill Township 
- $72,500 for 16.5 acres, 1295 Wright Road, Milford Township 
- $195,000 for 48.8 acres, 811 Thousand Acre Road, West Rockhill Township

The three projects demonstrate the collective impact of individual projects, the commissioners said. The preservation of the three parcels will help protect more than 1,600 feet of the Ridge Valley Creek, over 50 acres of forested riparian buffers, wetlands and floodplains, threatened grassland habitats, and Audubon-designated Important Bird Areas.

The Natural Areas program preserves and protects important plant and animal habitats, significant geological features and ecological services. In a partnership with municipalities and nonprofit land trusts, the county has preserved 1,673 acres of significant natural resources and habitats.

All programs are under the direction of the Bucks County Planning Commission. 

Experts at forum field questions on gas-drilling plans

By Kevin J. Guhl
Delaware Valley News - April 06, 2006

A forum held at Palisades High School on Monday offered residents a clearer picture of what to expect from a natural-gas drilling operation a Michigan company is trying to start in Nockamixon Township.

The township-sponsored forum was a response to Arbor Resources' ongoing attempts to have property owners sign leases for their nautral-gas rights.

Arbor salesman Dave Schriml, who attended the forum, said Arbor has obtained close to 280 leases encompassing about 4,000 acres.

Although the company is ready to apply for a drilling permit soon, Arbor hopes to have 10,000 acres signed up eventually to form a contiguous network of properties on which to drill and withdraw natural gas.

Panelists were Matthew Wolford, an attorney from Erie, Pa. who has represented both oil and gas companies and property owners in drilling matters and worked with the Pa. Department of Environmental Protection; Philip Getty, an environmental hydrogeologist; Mark Gallagher, a water expert from Princeton Hydro; and Doug Skelton, Ottsville Fire Company chief.

Wolford said the state DEP regulates drilling operations and deals with environmental concerns, not property rights and access issues, which are between the company wanting to lease mineral rights and the property owner.

The DEP also inspects gas wells and will respond to complaints regarding them, Wolford said.

Wolford described property rights as a "a bundle of straws," with the owner able to sell off straws from that bundle such as oil, gas and mineral rights.

Oil and gas drilling is much more common in western Pennsylvania, said Wolford, and many properties there already have those rights sold, sometimes by a previous owner. In eastern Pennsylvania, however, this is almost unheard of.

Wolford said the DEP is not aware of Arbor, as Arbor has not applied for permits or registered to do business in the state.

Wolford said the leases Arbor is offering people, both for drilling and for rights to extract gas from under the surface, seemed straightforward but had some oddities compared to regular leases in the state.

For example, the lease has a five-year term with an automatic renewal, which Wolford said would concern him because it could tie the property up for 10 years. 
Schriml countered that the initial five years is paid up front and then residents received one-eighth royalties once production begins.

Schriml said that, under state law, anyone who doesn't sign a lease but is within the network of drilling sites with be assigned their fair share by the courts after Arbor has made back twice its cost.

Arbor's leases are assignable to another party, although Schriml said Arbor is conducting the drilling itself.

"If you own the oil and gas rights, you can (negotiate) any way you want," said Wolford. 
This includes making sure Arbor meets individual needs such as fencing and possibly even attorney's fees if there is a dispute, since it encourages problems to be settled outside of court.

However, Wolford warned that a gas company might lose interest if a property owner got too "picky."

Getty encouraged landowners to have a survey performed before drilling starts to learn the baseline conditions of ground water, focusing on potential contaminates, in case drilling released pollutants into the water supply.

The DEP will usually attempt to remedy a contaminated well by providing another alternative such as bottled water.

However, Arbor will have to abide by state law that requires a casing to be installed underground around the drills to protect the aquifer.

Gallagher questioned how protected municipal ordinances are, since Nockamixon is working to pass an amendment to its zoning ordinance that would prohibit drilling in its village and resource protected areas.

Wolford said federal and state laws preempt most local ordinances but municipal zoning ordinances are protected, as long as they're in effect before the drilling operation is started. 
Wolford warned that a zoning ordinance has to allow for drilling somewhere in the township because if it's too strict it would likely be struck down in court.

Getty said the initial drilling process runs 24 hours and toxins that come out of the ground are stored in an open pool that has to be carefully removed.

Afterwards, a pipeline runs underground and ends in short wellheads. 

The leases mention underground storage tanks. 

Getty described the drilling as a "wildcat operation" because Arbor is exploring and doesn't know for sure what it will find. 

Schriml said Arbor expects to drill about 8,000-9,000 feet down. 

Arbor is basing its prospects on a well, drilled in 1985 by North Central Oil Co. on the Cabot Corp. property in Nockamixon, that turned up gas deposits. 

Jim Logan of Nockamixon said he did not sign a lease but felt misled when he was approached by Schriml, because the salesman said the Cabot well would be used for drilling. 

Schriml said he only said it was a possibility because Arbor approached Cabot to purchase the property but was turned down. 

Skelton said that is already a pipeline owned by Buckeye that cuts through Nockamixon and Tinicum and carries various liquids, such as jet fuel and oil. 
The local fire companies are made aware of this, he said, and there never has been a problem.

Tinicum Conservancy President Karen Budd said Bucks County open-space funds cannot be used to preserve properties that have leased oil, gas and mineral rights. 

Nockamixon resident Jim Diamond confirmed that the Conservancy rejected his land-preservation easement because he signed a drilling lease with Arbor.


Yards won't yield riches, experts say


Intelligencer - April 02, 2006

Nockamixon residents hoping to strike it rich off natural gas drilling better not quit their day jobs.

That's what industry experts and attorneys say about the prospects any natural gas well in the Upper Bucks town will produce a millionaire or even enough money for someone to retire comfortably.

Based on experiences in western Pennsylvania, where oil and gas are more abundant and drilling is commonplace, the most anyone makes being part of a lease is a few thousand dollars a year.

"I don't think you'll run into Jed Clampett stories," said Sean Cassidy, a Westmoreland County attorney, whose firm only deals with oil and gas issues. Cassidy said initially wells in his area can earn landowners about $8,000 a year. But production tends to drop over time and then level off. "A really good well, maybe one out of a hundred, might pay $20,000 a year," he said.

But the promise of money has some Nockamixon residents eager to sign drilling leases. For the last year or so, Michigan-based Arbor Resources LLC has been going door to door to get landowners in Nockamixon and northern Tinicum townships to lease their properties so the company can explore for natural gas that may be thousands of feet underground.
Arbor Resources must still apply for a permit from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, which regulates drilling. So far, no application has been submitted, but the review process takes only a couple of months, said Tom Rathbun, spokesman for the DEP's office of mineral resources management.

Nockamixon officials also are considering a local provision to prevent drilling in the villages and resource protection areas.

The drilling issue is dividing neighbors of this rural township with some arguing that people have the right to do whatever they wish with their property and their minerals and that new sources of energy are needed. Others contend that there are too many unknowns about drilling and worry about potential environmental and safety issues.

Some of these topics will be discussed Monday at a 7:30 p.m. public educational forum at Palisades High School.

What lies beneath?

With towns named Oil City and Petroleum Center, Pennsylvania has a long history of oil and gas production. But that's in the western and northern parts of the state. Industry experts call southeastern Pennsylvania a "wildcat" area because there is no clear indication of how much gas and oil lies beneath the surface. 

"It's somewhere between a lot and maybe nothing. Until that drill bit gets turned to the right (we don't know)," said environmental hydrogeologist Phil Getty, who used to locate wells for Shell and Texaco and now works for Boucher & James, Inc., a Doylestown engineering firm. 
Wells in Nockamixon will need to be dug about 8,000 feet deep, which, according to Rathbun, is much deeper than in western Pennsylvania, where the oil and gas is closer to the surface.

Some say the fact that only one company is prospecting in Nockamixon means this is not a hot area, at least not yet.

Arbor Resources is basing its drilling on what a Texas company found in the 1980s. North Central Oil Co. never struck oil but did find natural gas. The company wasn't interested, plugged the well and left.

But with today's high energy prices and improvements in exploration and extraction technology, companies are now interested in smaller pockets of minerals.
"Now that prices are up, all of sudden some smaller deposits are worth going after," said Larry Nation, of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, which represents 30,000 members in 115 countries. "There are hundreds of millions of cubic feet of gas found all over the world. Some are in the middle of sea, which is called stranded gas. It's just not economical (to extract it)."

Residents who sign the agreements with Arbor have been promised upfront cash for the leased acreage and royalties from what's eventually extracted. The royalties are based on how much land was leased, with a maximum payout of 12.5 percent of the profit from that gas.

The amount of money a landowner can make through this deal varies from place to place, depending on how much a well produces, and perhaps more importantly, how much it sells for on the market.

The New York Mercantile Exchange listed May futures for natural gas at $7.38, while crude oil is listed at $66.84.

"One of the beauties of the industry and one of the curses is it's very complex," said Nation. "There's risk. The only money guaranteed is the money you get up front."
Signer beware

Drilling leases are basically standard documents but can vary slightly. Some give the landowner a portion of the extracted gas for their home use.

"The problem is that oil and gas companies use standard form leases, and the terms tend to favor the company," said Matthew Wolford, an Erie-based oil and gas attorney who represents both homeowners and companies.

"The property owner is usually not very sophisticated and doesn't think it can be negotiated. They view it as take it or leave it," said Wolford, who also has worked for the DEP and will attend Monday's educational forum.

Attorneys advise landowners to read the lease's fine print. Negotiate issues before signing, such as where drilling will occur and who has access to any road that may be built on their property.

Also, ask if the company will do the drilling or if they have plans to sell the leases to another firm, which happens from time to time.

To date, Arbor has signed 250 to 300 homeowners and leased about 4,000 acres, with the goal to have 6,000 to 8,000 acres under lease, said Terry Beia, a manager for Arbor. The company wants that amount of acreage under lease before drilling begins.

Former Superfund site gets checkup


Intelligencer - April 03, 2006

The Revere Chemical site in Nockamixon is getting its five-year checkup. 
The U.S. Department of Environmental Protection will conduct its required study of the Superfund site to make sure the cleanup did the trick.

"This is a very routine thing," said EPA spokesman David Sternberg.

Officially cleaned up in 1998, the Revere site was contaminated 30 years earlier. 
In the 1960s, Manfred DeRewal was involved with Echo Inc. and later Revere Chemical Corp. on the 113-acre property, where he recycled chemicals and metals.

Chromic acid, ammonia and other elements were dumped in unlined lagoons which then overflowed into Rapp Creek. A court order shut the company down in 1969.

About $12 million was spent cleaning up the site, which involved removing more than 3 million gallons of waste, hundreds of chemical drums, and truckloads of contaminated earth. Buildings on the site were also torn down.

By 1998, the cleanup was complete and federal officials say the site is no longer a threat. 
But the land is tested every five years since hazardous materials remain there under a cap, said Sternberg. 
There were heavy metals and volatile organic compounds in the ground and the main concern for the EPA was the copper chromium, said Sternberg.

"It's encased under a cap so it's not going anywhere," he said.

EPA officials will be out at the site in May to make sure the covering is still intact and there has been no erosion. Groundwater will also be tested and data will be reviewed. A report will then be issued on the EPA's findings.

Although it's cleaned up, the site could be tested periodically for quite some time. "Theoretically, as long as we have waste in place, the statute says we need to do five-year reviews," said Sternberg.

The Revere Chemical property is now open space and is owned by Nockamixon Township.

Public comment about the site is welcome as part of the review. 

For information, contact EPA personnel Ruth Scharr, (215) 814-3191, or William Hudson, (215) 814-5532.

Bromms nursery site proposed for shopping complex

by Rebecca Fink 
Bucks County Herald - March 16, 2006

A large shopping center may be coming to Fountainville. Plumstead supervisors heard an informal overview by Regency Center developers on a zoning amendment request for a property at Ferry and Swamp Road. The Fountainville property is owned by Fred Bromms and operates as a mixed use of agriculture, landscaping and the retail sales site of Bromms Nursery. Regency Center developers are requesting rezoning from Residential 0 to Commercial 3 to be able to build a 152,000- square-foot shopping center much like their Mercer Square shopping center in Doylestown. An anchor grocery store, smaller complementary stores such as video, dry cleaners and home furnishing businesses and a larger sized retail area are proposed. A restaurant of 4,500 to 6,500 square feet is included. The development would require 600 parking spaces and a traffic study done by the developer. Required road improvements would be done by the developer, according to Robert Grundlach Jr., attorney for Regency. "For the center to succeed, convenient traffic flow would be necessary," said Powell W. Arms of Regency Center. The site capacity study of the 38 acres shows riparian buffers and wetlands, which reduce the developable area to 14 acres. Supervisor Housley Carr said, "The Bucks County Planning Commission raised legitimate concerns about the possible rezoning, sighting reduced integrity of the existing village, lack of public sewer, and increased traffic in a currently congested area. Supervisor Vince Formica said, "We have gone to great lengths to preserve land in this area. It would be counterproductive to change zoning to allow a strip mall." Necessity is required to warrant rezoning, Supervisor Betsey Helsel said, and she does not see that in this request. "Something of this magnitude does not belong at this site. There has been a lot of effort by the township to maintain the viewshed of Ferry Road," said Supervisor Frank Froio. Bromm commented that it is not feasible to farm his 38 acres. "The soil is bad and there are no services for farmers," he said. "It's not a farming area any more." The site is across from the CVS shopping center and east of a golf driving range in neighboring New Britain Township. Regency Center will re-evaluate the site proposal. 

Tinicum talked and Springfield listened Open space was the theme at supervisors' work session

by Rose Strong
Bucks County Herald - March 16, 2006

The Springfield Board of Supervisors' work session Feb. 28 consisted of a discussion with several invited guests regarding open space. Norm McArthur of Tinicum Township's Open Space Committee and the Tinicum Conservancy gave a rundown of the activities his township has had to advance the open space issue and keep farms and other properties preserved. Karen Budd, president of the Tinicum Conservancy was available to give information on how the conservancy, working with the township has helped the group to the current total of 57 easements. Stan Allen, C.P.A., who worked for 20 years as the chief financial officer for Bucks County offered his expertise in the financial impact, advantages and disadvantages of working to save open space in a community. Through a bout of questions from the supervisors, the Tinicum representatives presented a glut of information and both the board and the audience could leave the meeting having a better understanding of land conservation. "When I moved to Tinicum, I had no idea what a conservation easement was. Once I started working with Karen and the start of the conservancy, we worked out a plan on what to protect. We had to decide what features were worthy of our time and money," said McArthur. He explained that significant farmland, water resources and scenic vistas are all important qualities; however the conservancy won't turn any property down. Making the public aware and wanting to save and preserve their land is the hard part and Budd and McArthur both agreed that making direct contact with landowners and taking their calls at 9 p.m. is exhausting, but well worth the effort. "If it's one acre or a hundred, we turn down no one. There is one form for a landowner to fill out. We tried to make it simple," McArthur said. "Political winds change, ordinances change and the stewardship money is helpful in case there is a challenge." "We've been fortunate so far and haven't had to use that money, but it is nice to have it. I do think that one lawsuit could potentially wipe it out," said Budd. Budd and McArthur explained that developability is what is used to rank a property. A landowner has an assessment of the property and we pay 50 percent of the development rights. Usually the owner donates to the conservancy and can take a tax deduction on that money which is used for an endowment of stewardship. "When we went before our board of supervisors shaking in our boots, we made a presentation to them with all our findings and considerations," said McArthur. "We asked them for $2 million and they said why not go for $5 million. Then we made another presentation before them again and did a question and answer and someone raised their hand. I was nervous, thinking here goes, and I hope I'm prepared to answer a question. The woman then asked why we didn't ask for $10 million." Tinicum currently pays an earned income tax of one quarter of one percent. Springfield supervisors are considering a referendum to the ballot for consideration of open space. The last time there was a referendum, it didn't pass and thoughts are that the wording was confusing. "In 2002 we had a $5 million dollar bond issue and the arrangement was to borrow the money as needed from local banks. The tax revenues go to pay the loans and it has been very successful. So far Tinicum has only spent $1.7 million in the funds," said Allen. Even if the property is sold, the owner dies or the home is foreclosed upon, the easement is for perpetuity, the Tinicum group said. "This it the reason we ask people to donate to the stewardship, so we have the ability to defend the easement," said Budd. "Our school district, Palisades, wishes to keep their school a rural one. There is only one way to do that. We have to limit development. The only way to do that is to preserve our land," said McArthur. The three were thanked for their time and openness to share what they know and Chairperson James Brownlow said he was sure the supervisors would be in contact with them for future questions. 


Oil-drillers, preservationists at odds in Bucks County

By Kevin J. Guhl

Delaware Valley News - Thursday, March 02, 2006

A company prospecting for gas in Nockamixon and northern Tinicum townships expects to have enough properties signed up within a few weeks to begin drilling. Meanwhile, a Tinicum-based land preservation group is warning people that they can't preserve their properties if they sign contracts with the oil and gas drilling company.

Arbor Resources, based in Traverse City, Mich., has signed contracts with 250 landowners, covering 4,000 acres mostly in Nockamixon Township, said company salesman Dave Schriml. He's gone door-to-door in this area for more than a year seeking landowners willing to allow drilling or gas draws on their property.

Arbor, Schriml said, is close to having enough properties signed up to set up a gas drilling operation and could announce in a few weeks where and when drilling will start.

Tinicum Conservancy President Karen Budd said that Arbor's efforts are "a very big problem" for her group, which works with landowners in Tinicum and Nockamixon to deed-restrict their properties to prevent development and maintain natural resources.

The Bucks County Natural Areas Grant and Tinicum's Open Space program pay residents for the easements. And they both prohibit gas extraction on preserved properties.

"From a purest point of view it is disturbing the natural resources of the property," said Budd. The conservancy might be able to work with the township on changing easement language to allow for the gas extraction, Budd said, but the county restrictions could take longer to modify.

Jim Diamond wants to preserve his 40-acre farm on Tabor Road in Tinicum and Nockamixon townships. His land borders Rapp Creek, considered a state Exceptional Value Stream.

Diamond grew up in western Pennsylvania, where gas drilling is more common. He said that when Arbor came to him a year ago he "grilled" them about their intended operation and felt comfortable signing the contract that would allow Arbor to drill on his property.

Diamond said he won't be satisfied unless he can both preserve his farm and maintain his contract with Arbor. "Gas wells are rather clean," Diamond said. "I have my farm on a complete conservation plan."

He thinks that Tinicum Conservancy and the county are "stepping out of bounds" by banning gas extraction on preserved land.

Manfred Marschewski, Bucks County Agricultural Land Preservation Board chairman, said that his board would meet today with an attorney to discuss the issue. He added, "If you already have preserved farmland, you shouldn't be drilling on it."

Arbor wants Nockamixon Township to lease mineral rights to its properties. Local officials took no action on the offer and are in the process of adopting an amendment to its zoning ordinance giving supervisors more control over drilling.

In the amendment, drilling wouldn't be allowed in the township's village center district because properties there are smaller than the 12.5 acres needed to drill, said Supervisor Ken Gross. The resource protection district would also be off-limits to drilling, he said, because of its protected status.

Drilling companies would be required to post a bond with the township.

Tinicum is considering a similar ordinance.

Schriml said that Arbor "can live well within those stipulations," adding that state laws governing drilling supercede township laws if they conflict.

A failed oil well drilled on the Cabot Corporation property in 1985 by North Central Oil showed high promise for gas drilling in shale, piquing Arbor's interest in Nockamixon.

Schriml said the gas supply in Nockamixon is expected to last more than a decade. Drilling at the first site will take approximately 10 days with a rig that runs 24 hours a day, but doesn't make enough noise to "keep anyone awake," said Schriml.

About a dozen sites will be drilled in turn, he said.

Ultimately, an approximately five-inch pipeline will run under the surface and be drawn from a wellhead rising about five feet aboveground, said Schriml. The wellhead would be "just south of the Haycock line on Route 611," he said.

People who signed contracts will receive royalties after Arbor has made approximately $3 million, or twice the expected operating expenses, said Schriml. By law, leasers receive one-eighth royalties, based on the acreage they have contributed.

Property owners within the gas deposit zone will still receive royalties, just at a later date because state court needs to determine the amounts, said Schriml.

Following a complaint from a resident, state Sen. Rob Wonderling is suggesting that property owners contact the Bucks County Bar Association for legal advice at (215) 348-9413 or (800) 479-8585.

"I wouldn't sign any contract without having your attorney" review it, said State Rep. Chuck McIlhinney.

Wonderling spokesman Scott Sikorski said that Pennsylvania law requires Arbor to ask for an indentification number from leasers, which could be a driver's license number. Arbor is asking for Social Security numbers.

Arbor Manager Terry Beia said that the company would register to do business in Pennsylvania before starting drilling.

Arbor isn't a company in good standing in Michigan, because it didn't submit state paperwork on time. It can still operate.

Schriml said that Arbor is "trying to protect our country in a way," by seeking new domestic fuel sources while other energy sources are developed.

Nockamixon Supervisor Nancy Janyszeski is skeptical. "There is no written proof that anyone is going to get money or how much money it will be. It's promises by a salesman," she said.


Bedminster studies waterways, aids Boy Scouts

Linn H. Jeffries
Bucks County Herald

The Bedminster Board of Supervisors, at its monthly meeting on February 8, approved an amendment supporting the Upper Tohickon Rivers Conservation Plan. The purpose of the program is to examine and maintain, or improve, the purity of the Delaware River and the many other waterways in the municipalities of upper Bucks County. Understanding current circumstances and establishing long-term plans are of the utmost importance now, before further development takes place. Particular scrutiny is to be directed to theTohickon Creek.
Tinicum Township is leading the way in efforts to upgrade the creek's classification on the federal scale that defines levels of water cleanliness. After its passage, the amendment was presented to the Bedminster Planning Commission for consideration.

Supervisors also looked at a proposal to join the Central Bucks Emergency Response Team, and it authorized advertising the proposal so a public meeting can be held to discuss it.

Four escrow releases were approved, including one to the Piper Group for wastewater treatment plant number three. In addition, the board approved the Frederick commercial subdivision on Township Line Road and Deerfield Estates, a 13-lot subdivision on Route 113 that will include the preservation of 48 of the development's 72 acres.

Board members also talked with Ben Suder and Matt Demuz, both 14 and members of Boy Scout Troop 187. The two appeared before the board to fulfill the qualifications necessary to earn an Eagle Scout merit badge that required them to go to a public meeting and ask questions about civics. Among the topics discussed were open space and growth. Afterwards, the board passed a resolution recommending that the badge be awarded to the boys. "Scouting should be relevant," said Supervisor Eric Schaffhausen. "We ought to be doing more things like this to strengthen the social fabric of the community. It's important that we reach out."


Open space battle

The Intelligencer

Robert Hanley has lived the hustle-bustle life of a New Yorker.

He still drives back and forth to Manhattan regularly.

But when he pulls into his driveway on Stover Park Road in Tinicum and closes the gate, he leaves behind all the noise and chaos and is greeted by his own slice of rural paradise.

Hanley stumbled upon it 10 years ago and immediately "fell in love." Today, llamas, sheep and goats graze on the 62-acre property. In a nearby stream, Hanley can spend hours fishing. He's surrounded by state parks and county park land. It's a quiet, private existence, and you can't put on a price on that kind of life, he says.

Some have tried.

In fact, elsewhere in the township, developers have presented plans for more than 600 housing units and a sewage treatment facility that could serve 750 homes.

Although Hanley receives weekly letters and correspondence from developers and their agents wanting him to sell his 1820 farm, he has opted to preserve the property just as it is.

Hanley is one of a growing number of Tinicum landowners who are giving up their development rights, a way to make sure their land, no matter who lives there or how much time passes, will never be developed. Residents in the 30-square-mile township are aided by the Tinicum Conservancy, an all-volunteer group that works to preserve the rural nature and environment of the northern township that sits along the Delaware River.

The conservancy works to secure conservation easements, which allow landowners to stay on their property but prevents them from subdividing it. Their land is assessed, and they are paid a portion of what it would be worth on the market. In 2005, the conservancy secured 11 conservation easements, thereby preventing 483 acres of land from being developed. Since its inception in 1992, the conservancy has obtained 57 easements and preserved 2,450 acres.

But it's a race against time. More and more, developers are trying to push into Tinicum, one of the last remaining rural spots in Bucks County.

Two builders - Piper Group Inc. and Main Street Development - have plans for more than 600 housing units that could be built in the coming years.

It's what pushes the Tinicum Conservancy to save as much open space as it can.

"You start to feel competitive. All right, they want to develop this many acres, we want to save this many acres," said Karen Budd, president of the group. "We're just ahead of the race, but we have a lot of pressure."

Main Street Development and the Piper Group are also working together to try to build a sewer treatment plant on Route 611 to handle the waste from the proposed developments. The plant could serve more than 750 homes.

Tinicum is not just getting single-family homes. Several of the proposed developments call for apartments and condominiums, a stark contrast to the existing landscape.

In 2000, Tinicum passed a referendum to borrow $5 million to secure development rights. To date, about $3 million has been spent. The township won't pay a landowner more than 50 percent of the market value for development rights, and not everyone is given that, said Budd. Land preservation is also funded by the county's natural areas grant program, which gives money to landowners living in the Tohickon and Tinicum Creek Watersheds, she said.

Landowners can also choose to donate their easements, making them eligible for a tax break because it's considered to be a charitable donation.

Regardless of the compensation, it's not nearly as high as what a developer could offer. So residents must want to preserve the character of the area.

"This is about preserving it forever and ever. Part of it is selfish," Hanley admits, "to preserve what I have. But it was more important to do it than the money. I don't make judgments on people who do (sell to developers). There are poor farmers who can't make money on the corn anymore."

Betsy Jacobs sees the development going on south of Tinicum and calls it "horrifying." Also a native New Yorker, she knew she never wanted her 10 acres on Headquarters Road to be developed and recently donated her easement. Although she has lived here part time in the past, Jacobs has since changed her voter registration so she has a voice in Tinicum's future.

The conservancy is trying to stress that saving land is also about protecting the environment. The township is home to wildlife habitats, watersheds, wooded areas and other natural resources. And the conservancy is "trying to make all residents aware that with every development that comes in, taxes go up," said Budd. "A huge development (could mean the need) to expand schools, widen roads, add more police. Everybody has to pay for that."


Palisades to study school expansion
District expects nearly 200 new students from planned developments.


By Kelly Madsen
Special to The Morning Call, February 3, 2006

To prepare for a possible flood of new students, Palisades School Board has authorized a feasibility study on renovating and expanding Tinicum Elementary School.

''We have to get this information early,'' board member Michael Lynch said at Tuesday's meeting.

The district is considering expanding the 50-year-old school to accommodate students who would come from 696 proposed new residences in Tinicum Township.

The school board received a study from the developers in the fall that said the new homes, apartments and condos could bring as many as 179 new students to the district, though it did not break down their grade levels.

The board voted unanimously to pay The Architectural Studio of Allentown $10,000 to do the study. It must be submitted to the board by June 9.

The architectural firm, which is also designing Palisades High School's field house, will evaluate the existing 35,000-square-foot building and its systems and the surrounding grounds. It also will consider the development proposals and talk to surrounding districts about how development affected their schools.

''They can come back with a number of proposals and costs,'' said Palisades facility director Dave Keppel.

Tinicum Elementary sits on 11 acres and there are 7 acres available to build on, though that amount of space is ''tight,'' he said.

Lynch said the board does not have to act on the study. It will be valid for two years, Keppel said.

Palisades planned to do a feasibility study for the school, Superintendent Francis Barnes said, because it was the only building left in the five-school district that has not been recently renovated or newly constructed.

Tinicum was built in the late 1950s and added to in the early 1970s. It can hold 325 students and currently has about 280.

The board took action when it realized the magnitude of the potential development.

Main Street Group of Warrington wants to build 268 apartments at Route 611 and Tohickon Valley Road and 192 condominiums at Route 611 and Durham Road.

Piper Group of Tinicum has proposed 47 single-family homes at Gruver and Randt's Mill roads, 60 apartments at Route 611 and Tohickon Valley Road, 42 townhouses and 10 complexes at Route 611 and Tohickon Valley Road, and 77 single homes at Ervin, Randt's Mill and Gruver roads.

Click here to read archived articles from 2005

Website Builder