Concerted effort to restore Barnegat Bay

Posted: September 03, 2012

Bob Martin

is commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

Gov. Christie is making an unprecedented long-term commitment to restoring Barnegat Bay, an ecological treasure vital to New Jerseyans and the state's tourism economy.

The governor started the ball rolling on Dec. 9, 2010, with a landmark announcement of an agreement to close the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant a decade ahead of its license expiration. That was just the beginning.

The governor has since directed the Department of Environmental Protection to develop a comprehensive, science-based plan to prevent further degradation of the bay, and to take steps to restore this incredible resource.

We have taken the governor's directive seriously. Teams of DEP scientists and staff, in collaboration with universities and businesses, educators and scientists, bay-area students and residents, local and county officials, and legislators and environmentalists are working hard on all facets of the governor's 10-point bay restoration plan.

Ten science projects are under way, as we gather data to help develop measures to protect the health of this ecologically and economically vital bay long after the Christie administration has departed the scene. Just last month, the second intensive water-monitoring initiative on the bay took place. The information gathered will not only help us make informed decisions regarding the bay, but could be a model of action for the state's other impaired bodies of water.

While we gather data for long-term solutions, immediate steps are being taken to improve Barnegat Bay:

The toughest-in-the-nation fertilizer-use law has been enacted, and residents and landscapers are being educated on reducing impact of fertilizer runoff.

Millions in state money is going to bay towns for stormwater basin improvements to deal with polluting runoff. That infrastructure work is under way.

Three thousand acres of Barnegat Bay watershed have been preserved since the governor announced his plan, with a target of 50,000 acres.

The Barnegat Bay Water Quality Monitoring Network was created and has been aggressively obtaining scientific data on pollutants entering the bay.

A boating education and compliance effort is under way in the bay to deal with ecologically sensitive areas impacted by improper boating or watercraft use.

Two successful Barnegat Bay Blitz cleanups were held, with DEP staff joined by thousands of student and resident volunteers. A third blitz is set for Oct. 18.

Despite decades of gradual decline, Barnegat Bay remains a vibrant source of recreation for thousands of residents and visitors who boat and fish in its waters, and enjoy its natural beauty. We intend to ensure this ecological and recreational gem gets the care it needs so it can be enjoyed by future generations.

Some critics of the governor's initiative have complained we are not taking tough steps needed to restore the bay. The critics are demanding creation of a regional stormwater authority, immediate imposition of maximum pollutant runoff standards, federal government intercession, and even a moratorium on development in Ocean and Monmouth Counties. But taking such steps aimlessly, minus key science, will not benefit the bay.

Barnegat Bay's problems did not develop overnight. Long-term solutions will take time. But efforts now in progress, which involve the DEP as well as the people who live, work, and play in the watershed, make the environmental future of the bay much brighter.


To learn more about Gov. Christie's 10-point plan, visit www.nj.gov/dep/barnegatbay.

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