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American Dream project secures critical environmental permit from Army Corps

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Developer Triple Five on Friday received a long-awaited permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its American Dream amusement and water park at the Meadowlands, according to three sources with knowledge of the situation.

The permit was dated Oct. 24, but signatures from all parties were not obtained until Friday, according to one source.

The applicants for the permit were Triple Five Development, Inc. based in Bloomington, Minn.; Metro Central, LLC, also in Bloomington, Minn.; and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.

According to the document, the permittees seek to discharge some 50,000 cubic yards of fill into nearly two and a half acres of "tidal emergent wetlands" and about 2.8 acres of "nontidal emergent wetlands" to build the 639,000-dquare-foot amusement and water park complex, plus a perimeter road. Additionally, the permittees would dredge about 2,100 cubic yards of sediments from a stormwater culvert beneath the New Jersey Turnpike.

The document also requires the developer to compensate for the "permitted 5.41 acres of permanent loss of waters" by purchasing 5.41 "mitigation credits" from the federally approved Evergreen MRI3 Wetland Mitigation Bank, located along the Hackensack River, in Carlstadt. They also must preserve a 130-acre site known as Walden Swamp along Berry's Creek and restore 0.18 acres of temporarily impacted wetlands or waters, among other conditions.

The permittees also must comply with a remedial action workplan approved in March 2012 that identified the licensed site remediation professional as Robert Koto, of Langan Engineering and Environmental Services.

The Army Corps of Engineers permit, which allows the developer to fill in a tract of wetlands for its water park, was just one stumbling block for the project moving forward.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency had objected to Triple Five's plan for remediating a tract of wetlands that would be developed for the massive retail and entertainment project. The EPA also had raised concerns about other issues, including whether the project can be reconfigured to minimize the use of fill at the site.

EPA's concerns reportedly were erased after U.S. Reps. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-Paterson) and Steve Rothman (D-Hackensack) intervened in August as the EPA was still weighing its concerns over the massive retail and entertainment project. The EPA roundly dropped its objections Aug. 17, telling the Army Corps of Engineers in a letter that Triple Five had addressed its concerns. That same day, Pascrell's office issued a statement cheering the decision and alluding to a recent meeting and tour of the site that he had had with EPA officials.

The state Department of Environmental Protection gave the project its stamp of approval in July. The project, which requires a final review by the sports authority, also has been the target of a lawsuit by the New York Giants and Jets, which have raised concerns over the impact to traffic on game days.

Completing the $3.7 billion project, once known as Xanadu, has been a top priority for the Chris Christie administration.

A formal announcement will be made at a press conference by politicians and involved parties, but a date has not been set yet due to Hurricane Sandy, a source said.

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