Sen Comm Releases Bill to Protect Barnegat Bay

Today the Senate Environment and Energy released a bill to help curb pollution going into the Barnegat Bat. S765 (Smith) requires the DEP to do a study and then adopt total maximum daily loads for Barnegat Bay ecosystem. As a result of increased pollution in the Bay, it has experienced loss of eel grass, fish kills, and other ecological indicators that are getting worse. Allowing the Bay to be polluted will jeopardize the $3.3 billion a year coastal tourism industry and $100 billion in ratables around the Bay. We need policies and actions like this bill that will protect the Bay now. New Jersey has continuously ignored science about the health of the Bay… In 2013, Dr. Mike Kennish authored a report by the Rutgers Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences on the deteriorating health of Barnegat Bay. The report shows that pollution is worse in the Bay than previously thought as a result of nitrate and phosphorus pollution and eutrophication.  With the Rutgers report there is enough data to declare the Bay impaired and to implement a TMDL for the Bay. In April, Commissioner Martin defended the Administration’s policies and refuted the Rutgers study calling the Bay impaired.

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Environmental advocates, DEP disagree on shellfish safety program

Environmental advocacy groups are concerned that proposed amendments to the state’s shellfish-safety program will make it infeasible for research to be conducted in prohibited waterways. Initially proposed in November, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection [NJDEP] called for amendments and repeals to the Shellfish Growing Water Classification rules, which establish standards for water quality protection and harvesting of shellfish, such as oysters. After discovering wild oysters in the Hackensack River several years ago, Sheehan and the Hackensack Riverkeeper initiated a study that was conducted by Beth Ravit, a professor from Rutgers University, to see if the oysters could be introduced in the river and reintroduced in the Raritan Bay.

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Rapid Arctic Warming Drives Shifts in Marine Mammals, New Research Shows

New hydrophone surveys of migration gateways to the Arctic show that recent extremes in sea ice loss has opened new waters to humpback and fin whales that once ranged through the far north only in summer. And as climate change drives the ice into further retreat, such "summer" species may begin competing with bowhead whales that once had the habitat to themselves, according to research presented at the Society of Marine Mammalogy’s Biennial Conference in San Francisco this week… Jennifer Francis, a Rutgers University research professor and plenary speaker at the conference, sees potential connections between rapid Arctic warming and unusual weather patterns and climate extremes elsewhere on the globe. For instance, a so-called "warm blob" that turned the ocean off the West Coast of the United States unusually warm for more than a year may have been especially strong and persistent because of the atmospheric patterns taking hold over the Arctic, which is warming much faster than the planet as a whole.

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Saving Shore Communities a Risky, Expensive Proposition

The sea is rising. The land is sinking. Entire mid-Atlantic communities are anchored in between, bookended by certain disaster unless a way is found to turn back the tide and save the shore… Build levees and dikes. Erect bulkheads around entire towns. Construct dunes in the marshes to absorb flooding from the west. Transform low-lying areas into amphibious suburbs. Admit defeat and retreat… "The bayside is basically the Achilles’ heel of New Jersey," said Michael Kennish, a research professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University. "It’s a crisis scientists are concerned about. People are more concerned about what they’re going to eat two days from now."… Kennish said most experts advocate what he calls "a practical view," endorsing infrastructure improvements to stormwater drainage systems and the installation of pumping stations, along with raising roads and houses.

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DEP: Barnegat Bay’s Health a “Mixed Bag”

While portions of Barnegat Bay’s ecosystem appear strained by pollution, life remains resilient under its murky waves… The risks to bay life if phytoplankton disappear would be catastrophic. Native phytoplankton is eaten by zooplankton and other creatures, which feed clams, crabs and fish, Buchanan said… Yet, the same species that lived in Barnegat Bay in 1973 are still here now, said Gary Taghon, a professor of marine ecology at Rutgers University… "Their abundances have shifted, but they haven’t disappeared," he said during a panel discussion at Ocean County College where researchers and environmentalists discussed the studies’ results… The changes in the bay’s ecology are speeding up, and are now noticeable within the span of a single human lifetime.

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