U.S.: N.J. can't review sonic-blast project

Posted: June 27, 2014

Federal officials have denied a New Jersey request to review an offshore research project that the state says could harm whales, dolphins, and other marine life, including commercial and recreational fisheries.

The project, led by Rutgers University and conducted on a National Science Foundation research vessel, would aim blasts of sound deep into the sea bed in a large area starting about 15 miles southeast of Barnegat Inlet.

The reflected sound waves would result in acoustic "images" that would allow scientists to discern sea-level changes from as long ago as 50 million years.

The state Department of Environmental Protection said that, under provisions of the Coastal Zone Management Act, it had the authority to review such projects.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration agreed, but denied the request in a June 18 letter, saying the state had not made its submission in a timely manner.

DEP spokesman Larry Ragonese said the state would ask the federal agency to reconsider.

"It's a technicality," he said of the timing. "Do they want our input, or are they trying to do government on technicalities?"

Cindy Zipf, executive director of the environmental group Clean Ocean Action, which has fought the project, called the federal decision "really lame." She said state officials had been "blindsided" by the project and had acted promptly when they learned of it.

The group is hosting a town-hall meeting at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Barnegat Light Fire Company on Long Beach Island.


sbauers@phillynews.com

215-854-5147 @sbauers

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