Environment New Jersey applauded Governor Christie for his strong stands against off-shore oil drilling and liquefied natural gas ports off the state's coast today, and called on him to give the same leadership to a renewed state effort to clean up water pollution problems at the Jersey Shore.
"The Jersey Shore is a beloved place and a leading economic engine for the state. But reckless development is changing the Shore for the worse, washing more pollution into the waterways where New Jerseyans swim and play," said Dena Mottola Jaborska, Executive Director of Environment New Jersey.
New Jersey's Shore counties are the fastest growing in the state. Between 1995 and 2002, the rate of development jumped 37 percent in Ocean County, 22 percent in Monmouth County and 24 percent in Atlantic County.
In 2008, beachgoers were turned away more than 200 times because of water pollution that could have made them sick. Overdevelopment at the Shore has overwhelmed the region's stormwater and sewer infrastructure increasing the flow of bacteria and nutrient-rich run-off pollution into the Bay and ocean whenever it rains heavily. Increased bacteria makes waterways unsafe for swimming and fishing many days of the year. Heavy nutrient loading feeds algae blooms which starves aquatic life of the oxygen necessary to thrive (a process known as eutrophication).
"The Barnegat Bay, as a shallow and mostly enclosed estuary, is the canary in the coal mine. The entire Shore has water quality problems but the problem in the Bay is especially bad," continued Mottola Jaborska.
In 2009, a NOAA study classified the Barnegat Bay and the New Jersey Inland Bays as "highly" eutrophic. The report went on to indicate that the Barnegat Bay is one of the worst in the country, as well as one of the worst in the world of these types of lagoons that have been studied. In 2007, the EPA called for "bold steps" to reduce nutrients in the Bay and in 2008, the NJDEP classified the northern part of the Bay as impaired for aquatic life on its Integrated List of Waters. Since then, the NJDEP has made little progress enhancing Shore area water protections.
The Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station contributes to Barnegat Bay's water quality problems by discharging heated water into the Bay on a daily basis. The heat helps fuel bacteria growth and accelerates eutrophication - more commonly understood as the reason for 'dead zones' where marine life struggle to get enough oxygen to live and thrive.
To solve the Jersey Shore's water quality problems, Environment New Jersey calls on the Governor to do the following:
1) Quickly set nutrient reduction targets for the Barnegat Bay, its major tributaries and ocean waters.
2) Increase beach testing at the Bay and ocean beaches to ensure that the full scope of the water quality problem is understood.
3) Support legislation to reduce nutrients in fertilizer that end up in Shore area waterways.
4) Support legislation that prohibits new development plans at the Shore unless it will be "net-zero" (adds no additional storm water volume to the region.)
5) Establish a storm water utility to repair and improve the Shore area's sewer and stormwater infrastructure to better manage the existing volume of storm water in the region.
6) Finalize the NJDEP water permit for Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant and ensure a closed loop cooling system is installed at the plant in the next three years.
7) Close the NJDEP CAFRA loophole which allows development of less than 25 units to escape the program's more stringent reviews and requirements for development of lands at the coast.
8) Create a "tributaries protection program" (known as Category One by the NJDEP) to ensure waterways flowing to the Bay and ocean have protective buffers to improve water quality.
9) Do not weaken environmental protections for the Shore provided by the New Jersey storm water, CAFRA, and flood hazard rules. These rules were targeted for a 180 day review by the Red Tape Review Group. A report released on Monday indicates these targeted rules could be overhauled or revised to make them more business-friendly.
10) Increase open space protection to offset overdevelopment
"The last time the Shore faced a big threat - in the 1980s when medical waste and hypodermic needles were washing ashore -New Jerseyans rallied for tougher policies to clean up the beaches and stop ocean pollution. With strong leadership from Governor Christie, we need to do that again," concluded Mottola Jaborska.