Real changes are needed to improve the health of the Barnegat Bay and we all have a role to play
The Barnegat Bay is a staple part of the Ocean County landscape and an important asset to the everyday living of those who reside and work here.
While it's not in crisis mode or in dangerous peril, the state of the Barnegat Bay is in a state where solutions need to be developed and implemented to improve its quality and overall health which in turn would improve the health and well-being of everyone who lives in Ocean County and beyond.
There is a think-tank of sorts filled with groups of people dedicated to studying the activity of the Bay -- what looks good, okay and what needs improvement -- and they make up the Barnegat Bay Partnership.
They've released report after report over the years presenting their findings and pushing for real-time changes.
The 2021 version of the "Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for the Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor Estuary" was recently released and lays out all the need to know information.
To help breakdown their findings and discuss the current state of the Barnegat Bay and Ocean County and even beyond, Dr. Stan Hales, the Director of the Barnegat Bay Partnership was a guest of mine on 'Jersey Shore Journal', which you can listen or re-listen to here, (just click on the Jersey Shore Journal tab).
There are some important points of our conversation we will highlight here.
One of the biggest issues facing the bay, Dr. Hales explains, is eutrophication.
"It's manifested in a number of different ways including low oxygen concentrations in some parts, declines in some species -- especially benthic species -- in some areas, algal blooms, nuisance algae and other things," Hales said.
A lot the challenges posed to the bay come from land, Hales explains, meaning in part what we do or don't do as a society and community.
"There's no one entity or organization that can fix all of those things, so we all really have to work together to address the bay's ills," Hales said.
In one of the most densely populated states in the country, there is some overdevelopment in a number of areas and it could in part be leading to issues in the bay and elsewhere.
"We've developed right up to the water's edge and yes, overdevelopment is a challenge for everyone, everywhere not just here in Ocean County but in lots of other places around the state," Hales said. "As we all know New Jersey is one of the more developed states so these issues are going to be more of a concern in places like this than in places where there are fewer people that are scattered further apart. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to look at an aerial photo of the landscape and see how closely to the water's edge we've developed and that's created an additional challenge now with Sea Level Rise and Climate Change."
With Sea Level Rise especially climbing upwards, Hales explains that there's not as much confidence the water won't come onto land as there once was.
"That problem's going to continue to get worse," Hales said. "We don't know exactly how worse, how fast the water's will rise, there's some uncertainty to those projections but evernote should be certain that the water is getting higher and the height of the water in the Bay is determined by the height of the coastal ocean and there are lots of different activities and things that are going on at various spacial scales -- large and small -- that are driving the water up."
There's no one size fits all solution to the problem(s) so Hales explains we need to come up with "a common vision on how to respond to that" and see different answers come to reality as well depending on what's going on and where.