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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 16, 2009

Contact: Elaine Makatura (609) 292-2994
Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795

GOVERNOR CORZINE ANNOUNCES CONSERVATION EASEMENT
FOR PETTY’S ISLAND IN DELAWARE RIVER

(09/02) TRENTON - A state land-preservation board has voted to accept a conservation easement for Petty’s Island, marking a crucial first step toward restoring and preserving one of the Delaware River’s largest islands, Governor Jon S. Corzine announced today.

The New Jersey Natural Lands Trust voted today to accept CITGO Petroleum Corp.’s offer of an easement for the island, located off Pennsauken in Camden County. CITGO must remove structures associated with former petroleum operations and complete cleanup of industrial contamination before the island can be transferred to the state for ownership and management.

“Although located in one of New Jersey’s most heavily industrialized river corridors, Petty’s Island is a surprising oasis for wildlife such as bald eagles, herons and waterfowl,” Governor Corzine said. “I commend CITGO and Pennsauken Township for working toward this milestone. One day, people from all over the region will flock to Petty’s Island to enjoy the Delaware River and learn about its diverse natural and cultural history.”

“This vote shows true vision and appreciation for the island’s untapped potential,” Department of Environmental Protection Acting Commissioner Mark N. Mauriello said. “We now have a unique opportunity to create a wonderful urban park with spectacular views from an island that has long been off-limits to the public.”

The company will create a $2-million stewardship fund for the Natural Lands Trust to manage the island and will set up another $1-million fund to assist the Trust in establishing a cultural and education center. The Natural Lands Trust is an independent agency that protects land on behalf of the state, usually through acceptance of donations and easements.

“The board members of the Natural Lands Trust are delighted that Governor Corzine cleared the way for reconsideration of this historic matter,” said Michael Catania, the Trust’s chairman. “The Governor’s leadership enabled us to take an action that will greatly benefit wildlife, result in a cleaner environment, and improve the quality of life for residents of Camden County and all of New Jersey.”

A restored and preserved Petty’s Island will provide Pennsauken residents with a front-porch view of their river and the wildlife that thrives along it for the first time in many years.

“Petty’s Island is a 400-acre natural jewel in the heart of the Delaware River estuary,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper. “The Natural Lands Trust vote is an important first step in protecting and restoring the island so it can contribute to a healthier Delaware River as well as support fish, birds and wildlife, all of which enrich our lives, communities and economy. By preserving Petty’s Island as natural open space, the Governor and Pennsauken residents are creating a legacy of healthy rivers and lands that all generations can enjoy.’’

The 392-acre island is surrounded by some 140 acres of ecologically important riparian lands, namely tidal flats. A pair of American bald eagles uses Petty’s Island as part of its foraging and nesting territory. The island also provides breeding and foraging habitat for species of heron, including the great blue heron and the state-endangered black-crowned night-heron. Songbirds that migrate along the river corridor find habitat and cover within the island’s woods and wetlands.

The state will assume no liability for cleanup of past pollution on the island. CITGO will turn the island over to the Natural Lands Trust to manage after the company removes petroleum facilities that include a tank farm and asphalt-blending operation. The DEP must certify that contamination has been cleaned up according to state standards. The cleanup terms will be covered under a separate agreement with the DEP.

The title transfer for the island may not occur before 2020, which is three years following the 2017 expiration of a lease a shipping terminal has with CITGO. This gives CITGO time to address any additional contamination issues found on the property after the terminal shuts down. Until the transfer occurs, CITGO may allow limited access to groups for educational purposes.

A Quaker, Elizabeth Kinsey, acquired the island from Lenni-Lenape Indians around 1684. She transferred it to William Penn. The island derives its name from John Petty, who owned it around the time of the Revolution. Schooners were built on Petty’s Island during the 19th century and a summer resort flourished there before giving way to industrial operations in the early 1900s.

The Natural Lands Trust’s acceptance of the easement now must be approved by the Attorney General’s Office and CITGO.

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Last Updated: April 16, 2009