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Governor Failing Our Shore

Date : Fri, 25 May 2012 12:50:05 -0400

For Immediate Release
May 25, 2012 Contact Jeff Tittel 609-558-9100

Governor Failing Our Shore

As we celebrate Memorial Day, the Sea Grant Consortium releases its report on the best beach, and the Governor visits Atlantic City touting our beautiful beaches, there are some real threats facing our coast and our coastal economy.The Governor is taking the side of special interest and developers over the people of New Jersey and attempting to roll back forty years of environmental protections. The state of the Jersey Shore is as scary as the Christie administration's policies that are affecting it. The Christie Administration is rolling back beach access and water quality rules, letting the health of Barnegat Bay continue to deteriorate, and is refusing to take a stance on off-shore drilling.

"Last year the Governor scared people off the beach before Hurricane Irene by saying 'Get the Hell off the beach.'This year his policies may scare us off the beach by weakening protections for our water quality in our ocean and bays and allowing more pollution and overdevelopment," said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. "Every year we talk about what is the best beach, but will our beaches be swimmable in the future for our children and grandchildren?With Christie's policies and weakening of environmental protections we cannot be sure." The conditions at our beaches continue to decline.In 2011 there were 50% more beach closings than in 2010.Beaches in Brick Township have been closed due to jellyfish overpopulation and beaches in Brielle, Spring Lake and Lake Como are closed when it rains.Brown tide outbreaks are occurring along the northern coast.Last summer, Seawood Harbor in Brick experienced horrific smells from rotting vegetation as the Barnegat Bay hit a record high of 91 degrees. Beaches were closed due to jellyfish, clam beds closed due to pollution, and loss of eel grass and other ecological indicators are getting worse. Dissolved oxygen levels are dropping due to high levels of nutrients from storm water, resulting in algae blooms. A recent study from Rutgers found New Jersey is the only state that has impairment due to dissolved oxygen along its entire coast from Cape May to Sandy Hook.This is the canary in the coal mine showing pollution is affecting water quality and could lead to things like red tides and jelly fish outbreaks.While the science is showing further decline off our coasts the Governor is actually promoting more overdevelopment and pollution that will impact our beaches and ocean.

"The administration does photo ops and beach walks and issues reports that the water quality is fine to look like they are protecting the shore when their policies do the opposite,"said Jeff Tittel. Last year New Jersey ranked 10th in the nation for the number of times its beaches exceeded national standards for bacteria from human and animal waste.Testing is only done one day per week, and not after it rains.Weekends attract the most beachgoers and water testing is done on Mondays.This results in five days of untested water before most people get to the beach, leaving the highest number of swimmers vulnerable to unsafe water.

"Last year when the Governor said the beaches were fine on a Saturday, it was inaccurate.There were dozens of beaches that should have been closed but the testing wasn't done until Monday," said Jeff Tittel. The Barnegat Bay continues to deteriorate while the administration focuses on studies instead of implementing land use or pollution reduction policies.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.The Governor vetoed a bill that would have reduced the amount of non-point pollution entering the Bay through a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).Instead the administration focuses on publicity events like the Barnegat Bay Blitz, which cleans up litter but does not address its source, failing stormwater basins.The Governor vetoed two bills that would have helped towns develop storm water management plans and fund detention basin retrofits and demonstration projects.Allowing the Bay to get worse will jeopardize the $3.3 billion a year coastal tourism industry and $100 billion in ratables around the Bay. Governor Christie is rolling back water quality protection rules and other environmental regulations that have actually protected and cleaned up the Barnegat Bay, the coast, and our beaches.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 waterways. Governor Christie's administration has delayed the Water Quality Planning Rules and the DEP is working to weaken them further by adding thousands of acres of environmentally sensitive lands back into sewer areas.This will encourage more sprawl and overdevelopment and could end up doubling the population around Barnegat Bay. A report that came out last year found that nearly half a million pieces of trash were left behind on New Jersey beaches last year. Everything from plastic debris to sinks was found in the sand. Adopting a bottle bill is another critical step to cleaning up our beaches.Requiring a 5 cent deposit on bottles and cans would encourage more recycling, thereby reducing the amount of litter that ends up on the beaches and in the ocean. Governor Christie has not opposed new efforts to drill off New Jersey's coast.He has been silent on the Department of Interior's plans for seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean and Virginia's plan to open it coast up for drilling.The Governor pocket vetoed a bill that would have increased the liability cap for oil spills off our coast.

"When the Governor ran for office he said he opposed offshore drilling, but since then he has followed the Big Oil, Tea Party agenda," *said Jeff Tittel*. Despite large public outcry, the DEP's proposed Beach Access Rules continue to limit public access to our beaches, bays, and waterways. The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled based on the Public Trust Doctrine that all tidal waters belong to the people of New Jersey, but these rules violate that Doctrine by limiting our access to the waters that we all have a right to enjoy.Instead of looking out for interest of the average beach goers in New Jersey the DEP is taking the side of developers and special interests limiting our access to the waterways we enjoy. The Christie Administration continues to move forward with the DEP Waiver Rule which will allow polluters and developers to evade state environmental standards.The DEP will begin considering waiver applications in August.This could allow ocean dumping and undermine clean water regulations.

"For decades we have made progress in cleaning up our beaches and water ways along our coasts, bays, and estuaries. All those gains are at risk with the Christie Administration's policies siding with special interest and polluters over the public and the environment," said Tittel. Governor Christie's policies are putting New Jersey's beaches at risk.The administration needs to move forward, not backward, and take steps to continue the past progress made in coastal protections.We need to upgrade our streams to Category 1 to protect water quality and to put in place better programs for fixing storm water programs along the bays and water ways. We need better testing and monitoring and to limit overdevelopment from impacting water quality.

"As we celebrate Memorial Day, the weakening of environmental protections and access to our beaches will mean that in the future we will have a real memorial to our beaches, when they are too polluted to use.That is why we have to stand up and protect our beaches, otherwise what we love most about living in New Jersey will be gone," said Tittel.

Kate Millsaps
Program Assistant
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
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Received on 2012-05-25 09:50:05

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