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Barnegat Bay Blitz Doesn’t Better Protect Bay

Date : Wed, 9 May 2012 11:34:29 -0400

For Immediate Release
May 9, 2012 Contact Jeff Tittel 609-558-9100

Barnegat Bay Blitz Doesn’t Better Protect Bay The New Jersey Sierra Club applauds the hundreds of volunteers that came out today to help clean up Barnegat Bay.These individuals came out because they truly care about preserving and protecting the Bay today and for future generations.Unfortunately, the policies of the Christie administration undermine the health and Barnegat Bay and result in more pollution. We have seen conditions get worse while the Governor is weakening protections for the Bay.He vetoed three important bills that would help clean up the Bay.He is weakening critical DEP water quality rules that would protect the Bay while promoting development around the Bay that will add more pollution.Instead of coming up with real polices to clean up the water going into the Bay, the Christie Administration is more concerned about photo ops and press releases than putting in place better protections.

"The volunteers that came out today showed they are more committed to cleaning up the Bay than the Christie administration.These individuals are working hard to ensure the litter and trash are cleaned up, however the Christie administration is not doing anything to strengthen protections for the Bay.Instead they are actually weakening protections," *said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. *"The Commissioner and politicians will show up to get their picture taken with the people who are actually picking up the trash, while their policies are encouraging the further deterioration of the Bay." While volunteers are out cleaning up the litter, the DEP is expected to publish a settlement and issue a permit to allow a new Wal-Mart to be built on endangered species habitat in the watershed.The developer, Jaylin Holdings, will be allowed to construct a new Wal-Mart about a mile away from an existing Wal-Mart on Route 37 in Manchester and Toms River Townships despite the presence of pine snakes.This project will pave over a portion of the Barnegat Bay watershed and will set a dangerous precedent for the use of mitigation practices to develop on endangered species habitat.

"The same day the administration is encouraging folks to go out and pick up trash in the watershed, they are approving a new Wal-Mart that will add more pollution to the Bay than any of the litter picked up today while setting a bad precedent for endangered species," said Jeff Tittel. The Barnegat Bay is the second most eutrophied Bay in the nation and action must be taken now to better protect it.The Bay’s deteriorating health has been confirmed in numerous studies.Last year the DEP Office of Science released a study concluding the Barnegat Bay continues to deteriorate due to nutrient pollution from too much nitrogen and phosphorus.Last summer, Seawood Harbor in Brick experienced horrific smells from rotting vegetation as the Bay hit a record high of 91 degrees. The Barnegat Bay suffered invasions by jellyfish and algal blooms as a result of continued nutrient pollution.Beaches were closed due to jellyfish, clam beds closed due to pollution, and loss of eel grass and other ecological indicators are getting worse.In 2011 there were 50% more beach closings than in 2010.

"This is nothing more than a Barnegat Bay public relations blitz that will not doing anything to solve the problems of the Bay. If we do not act quickly to clean up the Bay, we will jeopardize the $3.3 billion a year coastal tourism industry and $100 billion in ratables around the Bay.More importantly we will lose one of the most important places down the Jersey Shore," said Jeff Tittel. The Governor is rolling back existing environmental protections and vetoing legislation that would help clean up the Bay.The Governor has delayed the adoption of a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for Barnegat Bay that would have placed a cap on the amount of pollution that can enter the Bay and established an action plan for achieving those targets.The EPA has called on the NJ DEP to implement a TMDL for the Bay in three years.A strict nutrient standard that can be enforced needs to be implemented, not a nutrient narrative as called for by the Governor.A nutrient narrative is too weak and would allow for excessive algal densities and nuisance vegetation.The Governor’s plan has no triggering mechanism to ensure the TMDL is adopted.

"The Governor’s program is more concerned about how fast boats are going in the Bay than sprawl and overdevelopment paving over the Bay," *said Jeff Tittel*. The Governor has vetoed two pieces of legislation that would have helped towns to develop storm water management plans and reduce nutrients entering the Bay through detention basin retrofits and demonstration projects.Dissolved oxygen levels are dropping due to high levels of nutrients from storm water, resulting in algae blooms.

"We have turned the Barnegat Bay into the state’s largest stormwater detention basin and have seen increased jellyfish and algal blooms.If we do not work to clean up the stormwater, the Bay will die," *said Jeff Tittel*. Governor Christie is rolling back water protection rules and other environmental regulations that have actually protected and cleaned up the Barnegat Bay.The DEP is overhauling and weakening Category 1 protections, stream buffer rules, flood hazard area rules and the stormwater management rules which will put more non-point storm pollution in our Bays.The DEP’s waiver rule gives the agency the ability to push out more permits in environmentally sensitive areas.

"At least with Bob Martin and the leaders of the DEP there at the cleanup, they are not further weakening protections for the Bay," *said Jeff Tittel*. Governor Christie’s administration is working to weaken the Water Quality Planning Rules to encourage more sprawl development.With the two year delay passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, the proposed Water Quality Management Plan (WQMP) for Ocean County can be changed to open up to 16,000 acres of environmentally sensitive areas to sewer service.This would result in an additional 125,000 people in environmentally sensitive areas in the Barnegat Bay watershed.When developments in non-sensitive areas, redevelopment areas and environmentally sensitive areas under 25 acres are included, the total additional people in Ocean County could be as high as 250,000 people.Under the current water allocation permit review standards the amount of water withdrawals from the Cohansey aquifer to serve this additional population could double, having devastating impacts on the Bay.The draft NJ State Water Supply Plan is showing that current withdrawals in the Metedeconk are 210% above the low flow margin threshold and are 198% above the low flow margin threshold in the Toms River. The administration’s Barnegat Bay Plan continues to avoid the most critical issue for cleaning up the Bay- addressing land use in the watershed.The failure to address land use concerns that are impacting the water quality and quantity of the Bay will result in continued degradation of the Bay and must be addressed. Adopting a bottle bill is another critical step to cleaning up the Bay.Requiring a 5 cent deposit on bottles and cans would encourage more recycling, thereby reducing the amount of litter that ends up on the side of the road, in stormwater detention basins, and eventually Barnegat Bay.

"One thousand DEP employees are supposed to take part in the Blitz.Maybe instead of picking up trash they should be enforcing the environmental laws for cleaning up storm basins, protecting the Bay from non-point pollution, and writing a TMDL to clean up the Bay," said Jeff Tittel. The bay is a critical part of New Jersey’s $3.3 billion tourism industry and there are about $100 billion in ratables in and around the bay.If the bay dies, people will lose their investments, impacting jobs. We believe Barnegat Bay is a resource for all the people of New Jersey and must be protected.

"The Governor’s Ten Point Plan is a cynical maneuver to look like the Governor is doing something when he is not.The avoids the major issues facing the Bay such as land use, development, sprawl and nutrient pollution.Governor Christie refuses to take strong actions to protect the Bay from overdevelopment and pollution," said Jeff Tittel.

Governor Christie’s 10 Point Plan Misses Mark on Cleaning Up Barnegat Bay

1. Close Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant In the deal with Oyster Creek, Exelon will be able to continueoperating the plant for ten years without cooling towers having a major impact on the Bay. The facility has a twenty year license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that may trump any deal the Governor has made and keep the plant open beyond the closing date in the Governor’s administrative order (see the court case with Vermont Yankee).While Governor Corzine was in office, the DEP issued a draft permit requiring cooling towers for Oyster Creek and Governor Christie rescinded that permit.The safety panel is not independent.

2. Fund Stormwater Runoff Mitigation Projects The Governor vetoed two bills that would have cleaned up stormwater in Barnegat Bay, including one that established a municipal funding mechanism for stormwater retention basin retrofits.Instead he offered fundingto towns that has always been available to them and is actually required under the EPA’s Clean Water Act phase 2 municipal stormwater program, through the Environmental Infrastructure Trust.However the amount is very small with very little impact.

3. Reduce Nutrient Pollution from Fertilizer The DEP is proposing rules that weaken the fertilizer standard undercutting the legislation that was written and passed by Assemblyman McKeon and Senator Smith.The rules are being written behind closed doors in consultation with the landscape and fertilizer industry and would cut back certification and application requirements.

4. Require Post-Construction Soil Restoration A year after this legislation passed, the Department of Agriculture and the Soil Conservation District have not proposed or put in place standards regarding soil restoration.The rules seem to be pretty weak and the agencies are keeping them private.

5. Acquire Land in the Watershed The amount of funding for Green Acres is down close to 40% under the Christie Administration.The Governor still has not bonded or released funds from the 2009 Bond Act.Only $7.5 million in Green Acres funding has been set aside for open space preservation in the Barnegat Bay watershed

6. Establish a Special Area Management Plan There is no draft or proposed rule yet on a Special Area Management Plan. Only one stakeholder meeting on the SAMP has been held and it was stacked with special interest and developers not the public and did not include a land use component. We are concerned this may undermine environmental protection as it has done in the Meadowlands years ago.

7. Adopt More Rigorous Water Quality Standards Christie conditionally vetoed, basically killing, a bill that would regulate the adoption of standards and declaration of impairments of the Bay within a year preventing a TMDL from being developed. Under their work plan they can go another 5 years before coming up with any kind of nutrient standard. A narrative does not have any real meaning compared to a standard.The EPA has said a TMDL for the Bay could be achieved in 3 years and has asked DEP to develop one by then.

8. Educate the Public Educating the public is a good thing, but there is very little funding available. They should instead be coming up with programs to protect the Bay.

9. Fill in the Gaps on Research They have decided to go on for another 5 years with more research so we can continue to study the Bay to death.None of the science from these studies is being used to develop regulations and programs to clean up the Bay

10. Reduce Water Craft This is such a minor problem when it comes to the Bay.It is sort of like putting sweet and low on top of your banana split.

"You cannot clean up the Bay with green wash. It is going to take more than photo ops and a weak Ten Point Plan to actually clean up the Bay. It will take real leadership and action to implement real policies that curb imperious cover, upgrade stream protections, clean up stormwater, and limit nutrients entering the Bay," said Jeff Tittel.

Kate Millsaps
Program Assistant
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
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