The project, however, will be scaled back for the moment from the originally proposed 72 holes to about 27 holes.
Earlier this month, problems rose between the HMDC and Bergen County, who sought to close a deal that would allow the HMDC to take possession of six landfills in Lyndhurst and Rutherford and transform them into golf courses and a leisure resort. The revenue obtained would be used to eliminate Bergen County's $97 million dept. Secaucus residents could benefit since the municipal government has submitted a proposal that would sell the town's sewerage effluent - the liquid left after sewerage is treated - to water these golf courses.
Under the proposed project, the HMDC would take ownership of the three landfills and lease them to a Florida-based company called EnCap Golf of Tampa.
These landfills ceased operations before 1980 but have continued to pose environmental problems since each leaches trash-generated pollutant into the Hackensack River estuary. As part of the construction of the golf courses, these landfills would be sealed, and EnCap would also lease a fourth landfill in Lyndhurst - which still operates - and close and seal that one as well. Cleanup costs could run as high as $70 million for all four sites. In the first phase of the project, the lease agreement would have EnCap paying the cost of sealing the landfills and would require this to be done using a layer of dirt or other materials up to 10 feet thick. This would keep gas or liquid from escaping from the rotting, buried trash. In addition EnCap would build a dock near where Berry's Creek and the Hackensack River meet. This would be used it to unload as much as 9 million cubic yards of mud dredged from New York Harbor to cap the landfills. This would save the federal authorities from having to dump the dredge at sea, according to HMDC officials.
The Army Corps of Engineers, who will have to issue the permits for the project, have also agreed to have the Harmon Cove Marina dredged, according to Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell. EnCap is in the process of obtaining the environmental and engineering permits needed for the project.
The second phase - if approved - would have the HMDC lease two more landfills to EnCap in North Arlington and close these as well. EnCap would pay the HMDC about $6.3 million per year to make up for the dumping fees the HMDC would have otherwise collected if the dumps remained open.
As envisioned, the project would involve 900 acres of land and include golf courses, a hotel and an office building with a marina on the Hackensack River in Rutherford.
Jeffrey W. Cappola, an attorney representing EnCap, did not give specifics in regard to the associated hotel, marina and offices when presenting the project to the HMDC, although Mayor Elwell, EnCap and Riverkeeper Bill Sheehan met last month in Secaucus to discuss the environmental impact of the project.
"I hosted the meeting," Elwell said. "EnCap gave us a presentation, and Bill Sheehan asked many questions about the use of pesticides and fertilizers. They had answers for every question."
Sheehan said he is not against the golf course.
"I talked to EnCap and if they want to do closure on the landfills, it would be counter productive for me to tell them not to do it," he said. "The landfills are a perpetual source of pollution until they care capped. I want them capped. The idea using the landfills for golf course if done correctly would benefit the environment. My problem with this project [is the] gross overdevelopment the HMDC is trying to tag onto it."
Sheehan said he was concerned about some of the additional aspects that have been discussed, including a Disney-like water park, time-share condo development, a hotel and an office building.
EnCap is currently developing 15 similar sites around the country, including two 18-hole courses on a 450-acre former landfill located in Houston, Texas. Elwell said the company did a presentation earlier this month at a special state-run conference.
EnCap has also met with the Secaucus Municipal Utilities Authority about use of the town's treated sewerage - called gray water - for watering the grass and plants on the golf course. Secaucus performs treatment on its sewerage to a level that produces nearly perfectly pure water. This has allowed the town to get approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection allowing the liquid to be used for watering of lawns in town. The sewerage plant's location directly across the river from the proposed golf course.
"They are still interested in our water," Elwell said. "One of the advantages of gray water is that it is a hedge against drought. Not only is city water expensive, it often gets cut back when severe droughts occur. Whether there drought or not, we will always have sewerage."