Citgo's gift to Jersey anything but "Petty"

    Venezuelan-owned Citgo Petroleum is donating Petty’s Island to the state of New Jersey. The gift of the 400-acre island between the Betsy Ross and Ben Franklin bridges will allow New Jersey environmental officials to turn the industrial site into a wildlife refuge.

    Venezuelan-owned Citgo Petroleum is donating Petty’s Island to the state of New Jersey. The gift of the 400-acre island between the Betsy Ross and Ben Franklin bridges will allow New Jersey environmental officials to turn the industrial site into a wildlife refuge.

    The island in the middle of the Delaware River is also in the middle of an international diplomatic effort.

    Listen:
    [audio: 090424ddisland.mp3]

    Venezuela’s relations with the U.S. have been strained since President Hugo Chavez broke with President Bush over the war in Afghanistan. The White House welcomed a coup the next year that briefly toppled Chavez from power. And then Chavez called Bush “el Diablo” in a 2006 speech at the United Nations.

    But both President Obama and Chavez say they hope for improved relations, and Chavez said that giving Petty’s Island to New Jersey was part of that effort.

    Drexel University instructor Pedro Sanoja says it fits a pattern.

    Sanoja: Just two days ago, the Venezuelan government issued a communique saying that it is considering redesignating an ambassador to the United States. Right now there is no ambassador. So I think this is part of a comprehensive strategy to bring the United States and Venezuela closer.

    Venezuela is also paying $2 million to clean up the island.

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    Michael Catania is with the New Jersey Natural Lands Trust.  He says the island’s oil storage tanks should be gone in 18 months. And after that, he says the island will become a natural oasis.

    Catania: If you are a migratory songbird or raptor, returning north from spending the winter in the south and desperately looking for a place to stop and refuel and rest that’s safe, and as you’re flying over this urbanized area and you’re looking for some green swath, Petty’s Island is going to stick out like a sore thumb.

    Catania says the work to restore Petty’s Island’s habitat will take several years. A port facility that serves barges has a lease through 2017.

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