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Bleak Barnegat Bay Report Has Silver Lining [AUDIO]

With an explosion of jelly fish, areas of stagnant smelly water and the depletion of crustaceans, you don’t have to be a Marine Biologist to figure out that the Barnegat Bay is in serious trouble.

Flickr User Thisisbossi

So the recent findings that conditions in the Barnegat Bay – Little Egg Harbor watershed are worsening is no big surprise.

Rutgers Biologist Dr. Michael Kennish has been watching conditions in the bay for quite some time and warning that it’s in “insidious ecological decline.” He says he’s often wondered if anyone even cared?

Now he’s heartened to see that people are not only listening to the warnings of scientist but they’re taking action from several approaches to help rescue the bay from becoming one big algae bath replete with dead zones. Kennish says it’s not one thing that will fix the conditions in the Barnegat Bay but many things and notes that Governor Chris Christie’s Ten Point Plan to help restore the health of the bay as a big step toward efforts to help the bay.

Barnegat Bay Trust
Barnegat Bay (Barnegat Bay Trust)

Kennish also mentions the support he’s seeing from the public. He says “Im thrilled actually, that the people are coming together. That the school systems are focusing on it from the first grade level right up through high school. I’ve never seen such a unified effort to deal with this problem and the understanding of how important the bay is to our lives and the understanding of how important it is to the environment.”

However, in what Kennish calls the early draft findings of a study on the bay that’s been conducted for over a decade, it appears that efforts at fixing the bay are going to have to be revved up to make a difference. He says it’s not that the efforts to restore the bay aren’t good, it’s that the deteriorating conditions have progressed so much that it’s going to take a massive costly effort to undo the continuing damage.

The report, which has been ten years in the making, shows most of the damaging pollution coming from the more densely populated and largely developed sections of Northern Ocean County and running off into the Southern parts of the bay. Research shows phosphorus entering the waterway from lawns, parking lots, driveways and sewer system overflows.

New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel says calls the Ten Point Plan, ‘The Ten Pointless Plan’. He says “Unfortunately unless the Governor wants to tackle land use issues and impervious cover, you’re never going to protect the bay. As long as long as the areas around the bay continue to sprawl out and continue to get over developed, the bay is going to continue to feel the effects of all that pollution.”

Tittel says “and so I think first you know, we need to come up with ways to manage growth around the bay. The second big issue we need to do and then it’s expensive, we need to clean up the storm-water coming into the bay.

Dr. Kennish says there’s more than 3,000 storm-water basins in Ocean County. Many are not operating. So we have to fix what we have already constructed.

It’s an expensive quest indeed, as three state-of-the-art storm drains were dedicated at Ocean County College costing $10 million.

Kennish says, “The big issue is where do you get the resources to do this especially in the economic condition that we are in ? So that makes it doubly difficult.”

However, Kennish and Tittel both say the Barnegat Bay is so important to New Jersey’s tourism, the seafood industry and property values, that the cost of trying to protect it can not compare to the catastrophic economic impact of loosing the massive estuary.

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