Baldpate mountain’s unique ecology threatened

Baldpate mountain is right near our house. In fact you can see it from my backyard, it’s right across the valley from us. We’ve taken our Foxhound hiking there on the nature trails and absolutely love it.

The Washington Crossing Audubon Society posted a 20 page comment to the FERC site about the impact the pipeline will have to Baldpate and the surrounding Sourland mountains:

Washington Crossing Audubon comments – original image

Washington Crossing Audubon comments – Original image Alternate Site

Baldpate Mountain has been cited as a preferred alternate route because of the existing power line right of way. While using existing rights of way is generally a less environmentally disruptive option, the geology, environmental sensitivity and ecological uniqueness of Baldpate Mountain makes it a poor choice.

Because of the extreme ecological sensitivity of Baldpate Mountain, Washing Crossing Audubon society opposes routing the PennEast pipeline through the JCP&L power line cut that bisects Baldpate Mountain. An outlier of the Sourland Mountains, Baldpate Mountain contains some of the richest biodiversity in New Jersey. Southern and northern species meet at Baldpate, enriching the flora and fauna. Due to the high quality habitat, including areas of intact understory, and the mingling of southern and northern species, Baldpate Mountain has the highest concentration of breeding Neotropical migrants in New Jersey. The thirty-one Neotropical breeding species including thirteen warblers and the Yellow-breasted Chat, two tanagers, three vireos, and two Catharus thrushes. Twenty-eight breeding Neotropical migrant species are ranked by the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) as birds of conservation concern. Baldpate is also an important migratory stop for Neotropical birds. Fifty species of Neotropical migrants of conservation concern use Baldpate Mountain as a migratory stop. A total of 165 species have been report to erbium at Baldpate; sixty-one of these are ABC species of conservation concern that use Baldpate for breeding, a migratory stop or as part of a resident territory. The New Jersey threatened Long-eared Owl was winter roosts at Baldpate Mountain.

Because Baldpate Mountain is long and narrow, it is highly sensitive to disruption from activity on the power line cut that bisects the forest lengthwise. Of special concern is noise from blasting and construction that would penetrate deeply into the forest, interfering with vocal communication between birds at a critical time during the breeding season. Construction along the power line cut and especially extending the width of the power line cut would destroy or degrade adjacent breeding habitat along the length of the mountain. Because Baldpate breeding territories are saturated, these birds cannot move further back into the interior forest if disturbed. There is no place for the displaced birds to go. Blue-winged and Chestnut-sided Warblers, species of conservation concern that breed at the forest-power line ecotone, would be especially affected. Increasing the width of the power line cut would also extend the edge effect further into the core forest, allowing increased access for brown-headed cowbirds, a nest parasite, and invasive species. The ecosystem at Baldpate is intact but stressed, making Baldpate sensitive to new disturbances.

The blasting necessary to penetrate eh extremely hard diabase substrate has the potential to affect the springs that feed creeks that originate on Baldpate, disrupting their flow and the animals that depend on them, including the breeding Louisiana Waterthrush, a species of conservation concern.

….

The power line cut predicates the requirement for an environmental impact statement. Considering the ecological sensitivity of Baldpate Mountain, the power line cut should have never been placed there. A thorough biological inventory and environmental impact statement would clearly show wy. The damage to the fragile by intact Baldpate Mountain ecosystem should not be compounded by allowing PennEast access for their pipeline.

A Google Earth snapshot of Baldpate is shown below with the pipeline route highlighted in purple through it.

Published by

Mike Spille

I'm a thinker, an analyzer, a synthesizer. Maybe not in that order. I live in West Amwell NJ with my wife Kristina, our two kids Day and Z, our two dogs Fern and Cinna, and two cats Ponce de Leon and Xavier.

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