Friends of Heinz Refuge Position

FRIENDS OF HEINZ REFUGE at TINICUMFriends of Heinz Refuge

PO Box 333, Folcroft PA 19032-0333
John Heinz NWR: 8601 Lindbergh Boulevard, Philadelphia PA 19153
Telephone-Heinz Refuge: (215) 365-3118
Email:  Info@friendsofheinzrefuge.org
Website:  www.friendsofheinzrefuge.org
Facebook: Friends of Heinz Refuge

June 1, 2012:  Friends of Heinz Refuge position on Korman proposal to rezone 35 acres adjacent to the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum for 722 rental apartments:

We, the Friends of Heinz Refuge (FOHR), are united in our opposition to the development of 722 apartment units with parking for 1034 vehicles on 35 acres of land immediately abutting the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum. (1)  Further, we are very concerned about the future of the entire 128 acre site bounded by Lindbergh Blvd., Mario Lanza Blvd. and 85th St. (2) We are concerned that the development will have grave consequences for the environment, the public and more than 300 different bird species, rare wildlife and threatened plant life that depend upon this unique habitat.

The Friends of  Heinz Refuge (FOHR)  is a 501(c)(3), a PA not for profit corporation founded in 1997 to assist the U S Fish & Wildlife Service in carrying out its educational, interpretive, and public use missions at the Refuge. (4Our mission is three-fold; 1)To assist the US Fish & Wildlife Service in carrying out the mandates of the refuge enabling legislation, 2)To promote public understanding of and support for the environment; and 3)To establish, maintain, and expand public support for the refuge. (5) We work hand-in-hand with refuge staff. We maintain trails, remove  invasive species, lead guided nature walks for the public, assist with educational programs, and raise funds for projects and programs.(6)

FOHR has recently raised over $125,000 for habitat restoration projects and educational partnerships with students from Philadelphia and Delaware County. Within our annual operating budget, we increase opportunities for area children to connect with nature providing bus funding to students for refuge field trips and providing volunteers to guide interpretive bird and nature walks. We also maintain social media communications through our website, Facebook page, monthly E-Bulletins and quarterly-published “Marsh Musings” newsletter.

The John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum was established by an act of Congress to protect and restore the largest remaining functional fresh water tidal marsh in PA.(7) The Refuge mandate is also to provide environmental education in the highly urbanized local communities and to provide wildlife oriented recreational opportunities.(8The Refuge provides important habitat along the Atlantic Flyway for 300 species of migratory birds that depend upon refuge habitat and resources for food, shelter and breeding.(9)  Numerous Pennsylvania State listed threatened or endangered wildlife species depend upon refuge habitat , including Least Bittern, Marsh Wren, Red-bellied Turtle, Southern Leopard Frog, Indian Wild Rice, and others. (10)  A pair of Bald Eagles have just completed their third consecutive nesting season at the Refuge fledging one chick. This is only the second nesting pair recorded in Philadelphia in over one hundred years. Numerous plants species of concern listed in the PA Natural Diversity Inventory are found on the refuge, the last remaining coastal plain habitat in the Delaware River Tidal Estuary in Pennsylvania.

FOHR is very concerned about the detrimental effects of this development; furthermore the timeframe for the zoning change does not permit a reasonable period to review environmental impacts on the community and the Refuge. There is insufficient time or information to evaluate the proposal in light of City, State and Federal codes, ordinances or laws. We can only assume the worst and anticipate the following impacts;

Surface Water degradation; the proposed plan shows no storm water management facilities on site. There are existing and recurrent flooding issues in the neighborhood including unregulated flows from Korman’s adjacent 420 unit development. Erosive and flood flows would be directed into the neighborhood and on to the Refuge.

Groundwater disturbance; Construction compaction and installation of building foundations will interrupt groundwater flow and limit it’s infiltration into the water table.

Floodplain encroachment; Much of the development is to be located within an area that FEMA has mapped as the 100 year flood plain.(3) Flooding problems at the Refuge and the immediate neighborhood are currently chronic and widespread. Developing additional lands in the floodplain within the limits of a tidal influenced estuary, during a period of rising sea level, causes great concern.

Water Quality impacts; Runoff from the site will carry silt, pollutants and toxic levels of automobile derived hydrocarbons into the Refuge adversely affecting the Refuge wildlife population

Air Quality effects; Construction activities frequently generate high levels of dust. Construction dust is classified as PM10 (particulate matter less than 10 microns in diameter) which can penetrate deeply into the lungs and causing a health problems including respiratory illness, asthma and bronchitis.

Noise disruption: Excessive construction noise can lead to hearing loss, high blood pressure, sleep disturbance and extreme stress. Research has shown that high noise levels disturb the natural cycles of animals and reduces their usable habitat.

Light Pollution; The ecological effects of light pollution include disruption of breeding and feeding behavior of many different species.

Wildlife impact; the adjacent National Wildlife Refuge is host to a variety of Federal and State listed rare and endangered species that could be seriously disrupted by the development.

Negative Economic Impact; there are 135,000 annual visitors at the Refuge who spend money locally on a host of goods and services. The user experience would be severely affected by development of this magnitude and proximity.

The John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum is a remarkable island of green is a densely developed and historically degraded area. It has the following noteworthy characteristics:

  • A thriving sanctuary teeming with a rich diversity of fish, wildlife and plants native to the Delaware River Estuary; (11)
  • One of few inner city Refuges in the National System; identified among highest priorities in the Presidents America Great Outdoors initiative; (12)
  • Designated a National Natural Landmark by US Park Service; (13)
  • Bestowed the first ever Important Birding Area status in the United States;(14)
  • PA Natural Heritage Inventory has listed Heinz as the only exceptional quality natural heritage significance ranking in the City; (15)
  • PA Game Commission shows Heinz to be an Important Mammal Area; (16)
  • The SE PA Regional Green Plan, Chester, Ridley, Crum & Darby Priority Area lists the Heinz Refuge as a regional treasure; (17)
  • A new trail link through the Refuge is  proposed as a connection with the East Coast Greenway; (18)
  • A broad and diverse constituency that cares deeply about the Refuge.

In sum, we believe that any proposed development on the 128 acres adjacent to the Refuge will permanently degrade the character of the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum.  Therefore, the Friends of Heinz Refuge (FOHR) strongly oppose the development of 722 apartment units with parking for 1034 vehicles on 35 acres of land immediately abutting the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, and request that the zoning change requested by the Korman Corporation be denied, forthwith. (19, 20, 21)

References:

  1. Korman site plan
  2. Eastwick Neighborhood map
  3. FEMA Floodplain map
  4. Friends of Heinz Refuge 
  5. National Wildlife Refuge Assn.
  6. Friends Of Heinz Refuge Programs and Services
  7. Heinz National Wildlife Refuge
  8. Heinz education
  9. Heinz Wildlife
  10. PA Natural Heritage Inventory 
  11. DE River Estuary
  12. Presidents America Great Outdoor Initiative
  13. National Park Service NNL 
  14. PA IBA
  15. PA Natural Heritage Inventory
  16. IMAP 
  17. SE PA Green Plan
  18. East Coast Greenway ROW
  19. Zoning Bill 120418
  20. Council Bill 120487
  21. Council Bill 120487 Exhibit A
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