Environment New Jersey launched a major public education and grassroots mobilization effort today to build support for a plan to clean up water pollution at the Shore and Barnegat Bay. Pollution from overdevelopment threatens all the state’s coastal waters.
“Compared to the 1980s, the threat to the Shore today is less visible but no less serious. Instead of medical waste and syringes, it’s the explosion of development putting our Shore at risk,” Dena Mottola Jaborska, Executive Director of Environment New Jersey.
Barnegat is in critical condition and research by the Barnegat Bay Partnership released last week says the health of the Bay has worsened over every study period from 1999 to the present.
“As New Jerseyans head to the Shore this summer, we want them to know about the threats it faces, and join us in urging Governor Christie to take strong and comprehensive steps to guarantee it will be healthy for future generations,” continued Mottola Jaborska.
New Jersey’s Shore counties are the fastest-growing in the state. Between 1995 and 2002, development jumped 37 percent in Ocean County, 22 percent in Monmouth County and 24 percent in Atlantic County. Over-developed lands cannot filter storm water adequately, washing pollution, especially bacteria and nutrients such as nitrogen directly into state waters.
Mottola Jaborska said the group supports what the Governor has included in his ten point plan to protect Barnegat Bay, issued last December. But that plan, she said, must be strengthened to include strict limits on the amount of pollution allowed into the Bay and protections for natural lands. The group also wants the Governor to establish a plan for the rest of the coast which faces similar threats.
The NJDEP has designated over 100 miles of New Jersey’s ocean waters as impaired and the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has called Barnegat Bay one of the most polluted and threatened coastal estuaries of its kind in the nation, if not the world. In 2009, there were over 180 beach closings when water quality was poor.
The State of the Bay 2011 report released by the Barnegat Bay Partnership last week found that of 19 key indicators of health, 11 have shown no improvement or are in decline. Some of the indicators, including seagrass, declined to the lowest level ever measured according to research professor Michael Kennish of the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University.
“The science underscores the need for a stronger plan to protect the Bay. The Governor must strengthen his plan and make a commitment this summer to setting mandatory pollution limits strong enough to restore the health of the Bay. Without these limits to inform the clean up plan, we can’t be sure enough action will be taken in time to save the Bay,” said Mottola Jaborska.
She continued, “The plan must also include steps to protect remaining wetlands and forests in our Shore counties which are needed to filter pollution and protect water quality. And, the Governor must extend his plan to the rest of the state’s coastal waters, which face similar threats and are without protection.”
From 1986 through 2007, the counties of Atlantic, Monmouth and Ocean County ranked among the top five in the state for loss of upland forests (more than 600 acres / yr.). Atlantic and Monmouth Counties were also among the top five for loss of wetlands (more than 125 acres / yr.)
Environment New Jersey staff will walk door-to-door in over 75 New Jersey towns, knock on over 100,000 doors and talk to tens of thousands of New Jerseyans about the problems at the Shore and what should be done. The group will also be conducting an online petition drive and gathering citizen comment in busy downtowns across the state. The work will be based out of two state campaign offices in New Brunswick and Ridgewood.
“We'll be out all summer in neighborhoods across the state educating the public so they can press for strong solutions, just like they did the last time the Shore faced big problems,” said Caity Bogdan, Campaign Coordinator in Environment New Jersey’s New Brunswick office.
As development advances all along the coast of New Jersey, Barnegat Bay and New Jersey’s other coastal waters face a substantial expansion of pollution. The watershed of Barnegat Bay which comprises mainly Ocean County is already 30% developed, which is the threshold at which scientists consider a watershed degraded. Monmouth County is just under 50% developed, Cape May is at 20%, and Atlantic County is approximately 18% developed as of 2007.
“To reverse the decline of Barnegat Bay and prevent other coastal waters from following in the Bay's troubled footsteps, we must stop destroying our critical watershed lands. Forests, wetlands and river buffers are nature’s best defense against pollution and we need them intact, not replaced with housing developments and strip malls,” stated Mottola Jaborska.
The NJDEP has regulatory programs in its tool box to protect natural lands from development. Environment New Jersey calls on the Governor to direct the agency to:
- Quickly implement the Water Quality Management Planning rule which will protect thousands of acres of watershed lands by prohibiting sewer service within them.
- Expand broad buffer protections around all the tributaries of Barnegat Bay and the state's other coastal waters.
- Protect remaining forested areas in Shore counties from development.
“This summer we’ll be talking to tens of thousands people to spread the word that Governor Christie needs to stand up for the beloved Jersey Shore, which is the heart of our state’s natural environment and our tourism economy. Our actions to save it need to equal the risks it’s facing,” concluded Mottola Jaborska.