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Avalon Prepares Strategy to Tackle Japanese Black Pine on Dunes

 

By Leslie Truluck

AVALON — The viability of borough dunes could be at risk, Environmental Commission Chairman Dr. Brian Reynolds told council at its meeting Feb. 11.
To that end, the borough is preparing strategies to tackle Japanese Black Pine, a non-indigenous species categorized by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service as “mildly invasive.”
It is present in dunes at 47th and 74th streets and has the genetic potential to grow up to 80-feet with roots based in a deep bed of flammable organic dust.
Avalon Environmental Commission is working with Joseph Lomax of Lomax Consulting Group in Court House to reduce the pines’ impact on the dunes’ natural maritime forest.
Borough Council finalized contracts with Lomax to prepare and submit a Dune Vegetation Management Plan, Community Forestry Grants, Smart Growth Planning Assistance Grants and Dune Vegetation Management Plans. Officials noted Lomax recently completed certification as a forester and can therefore facilitate plans that require expertise.
Lomax Consulting Group will prepare and file an application for an Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions (ANJEC) 2009 Smart Growth Planning Grant for $18,000, of which the borough will match $9,000.
Lomax was also awarded a professional service contract to develop Forestry Management Plan at a total cost of $4,500. The group will communicate between the borough’s environmental commission and representatives to submit the plans to the NJ Forest Service Community Forestry Program.
The borough will apply its 2009 Green Communities Grant for $3,000 from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) towards the consulting services, leaving a balance of $1,500; Administrator Andrew Bednarek said the services value $17,500.
At a cost of $14,750, the Lomax Group will also prepare a Dune Vegetation Management Plan and design management standards with the Environmental Commission and create a pilot program in a half-beach block area at 74th Street to test which approach works best.
“It’s a huge benefit to have Joe (Lomax) do both rather than having two consultants,” Bednarek said.
Lomax said he has investigated pine development in the borough’s entire dune system from 80th Street to Towns Inlet to understand the distribution of Japanese Black Pine including its height, density and areas of dune grass dieback.
“Dune grass is critical to the community’s protection,” he said.
There are four different approaches for the Dune Vegetation Management Plan: a slow methodical replacement, trimming vegetation back, thinning or a combination of the three, Lomax said.
The 74th Street pilot program will test each component to decide which works best to protect the dunes and address the invasive species.
He said the densest areas should be addressed first and 74th Street is a “dramatic example” where invasive pines are nearing 25-feet.
Adjacent landowners and regulatory agencies will be contacted because the project could be viewed as development and subject to Coastal Area Facility Review Act (CAFRA) review; however, officials said it might be possible to modify an existing permit to accommodate the project.
Lomax explained the intention is not to remove all black pine but rather to trim, thin and replace it with native plants. Cutting off crowns will kill the trees but the root systems will remain intact and hold the dunes together.
The Environmental Commission would be involved and volunteers could perform the work, however, qualified professionals would need to supervise.
Japanese Black Pine was planted to maintain the dunes before its invasive nature was discovered, Lomax said. In order not to damage the dunes, it needs to be removed by hand without heavy machinery.
“Everyone in state and federal government seems to think they have something to do with our dunes. Many agencies would have to agree with the process,” Councilman Charles Covington said.
Particularly, he noted the DEP and U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, the two agencies working with the borough on its Beach Management Plan. Furthermore, the borough has a Beach and Dune Agreement with the DEP to protect piping plovers.
Lomax said the 74th Street pilot area is “well outside of piping plover nesting areas.”
“Interagency communication is needed to establish interest, seek funding sources and open the lines of communication,” Lomax said.
As for funding, Bednarek said some of the adjacent property owners said they would offer contributions for native planting. Half of the funding may be available through the Smart Growth Planning Grant funded by the NJ Environmental Commission Trust.
“It’s cutting-edge for a municipality to include a Dune Conservation Plan as part of its Master Plan,” Bednarek said. Planning/Zoning Board ordinances would dictate activities on the dunes.
“It’s a great initiative. I’m glad we are addressing this before potential tragedy,” Councilwoman Nancy Hudanich said.

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