As part of the Christie Administration’s continuing effort to protect and restore ecologically important Barnegat Bay, the Department of Environmental Protection, along with State Police, Ocean County and local authorities, will initiate a series of intensive education and compliance sweeps this summer to promote greener and safer boating practices on the bay, Commissioner Bob Martin announced today.
The goal is to familiarize local residents and many thousands of seasonal visitors to Barnegat Bay with low-impact boating measures that can make a tangible, positive impact on the bay’s health, especially during the coming peak boating season.
“Barnegat Bay is a precious natural resource, an environmental jewel of New Jersey that also serves as a recreational haven for hundreds of thousands of people annually,’’ Commissioner Martin said. “We are not seeking to limit boating on the bay, but want to ensure it will be healthy, clean and beautiful for future boaters. Following green boating practices will enhance everyone’s enjoyment of the bay and make it a safer place.
“We are employing these sweeps to remind boaters and watercraft enthusiasts of important guidelines they should follow that can help protect the environmental integrity of the bay while not interfering with their enjoyment.’’
Studies done by the DEP in coordination with academic researchers have identified 16 ecologically sensitive areas in Barnegat Bay that can be negatively impacted by water craft. High speed boats and watercraft, and the wakes they create, can damage submerged aquatic vegetation, such as eel grass, and can disrupt aquatic habitats and nesting shorebirds, particularly in shallower tidal waters where recreational activities are common.
New Jersey State Park Police Director Rick Arroyo stressed the educational nature of the state’s new initiative. Police in boats will be armed with green boating literature that will be distributed during informal stops on Barnegat Bay. Boaters also will get maps showing the 16 most ecologically sensitive areas of the 660-square-mile watershed – areas deserving of special care.
While the bay is always patrolled, Arroyo said the summer sweeps will add more police presence utilizing multiple law enforcement agencies under a unified command to educate and enforce boating rules.
“Our goal is to respect and protect Barnegat Bay in the short-term and the long-term,” Arroyo said. “There are many things boaters can be doing to serve the best interests of the bay while enjoying it at the same time. However, boaters who are egregious offenders of existing navigational or maritime law, including excessive speed in no-wake zones or drive while intoxicated, will be handled accordingly.’’
Participating agencies in this new effort include the New Jersey State Park Police, New Jersey State Police, New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, Ocean County Sheriff’s Department, plus Brick Township, Mantoloking, and Berkeley Township police departments.
“The DEP and law enforcement form a natural partnership,” said Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch-Ford. “Our efforts to create a visible police presence on the waters will not only remind boaters to engage in safe boating activities, but will also remind all of our obligations to protect the quality of our great natural resource, the Barnegat Bay.”
Reducing water craft impacts is one of the key goals in Governor Christie’s 10-point Comprehensive Barnegat Bay Restoration Plan, which was launched in December 2010. Other key points include an early shutdown of Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant by the end of 2019, a reduction of nutrient pollution from fertilizer, the funding of stormwater runoff mitigation projects, as well as public education and scientific research on the bay.
The DEP has established a series of tips for clean and green boating in Barnegat Bay and that information will be provided to boaters who are stopped during the education sweeps. As part of its campaign to keep the bay cleaner and greener, the DEP recommends boaters:
- Stay out of restricted areas set aside for wildlife. Do not harass nesting birds and other animals.
- Buoy mooring chains and lines to prevent them from scraping on the bay bottom and harming submerged aquatic vegetation and animals.
- Use pump-out boats and facilities. Do not discharge wastewater holding tanks into open water.
- Maintain 100-foot distance (about the length of six cars) from natural shorelines, bay islands and sensitive ecological areas, and use marked navigational channels for travel.
- Minimize wakes in all shallow areas to help reduce erosion and harm to aquatic plants and animals.
- Appreciate wildlife from a distance.
- Help reduce air pollution by cutting the engine and not idling in open water.
- Keep trash, recyclables, hooks and lures in secure containers and dispose of them properly on land. Recycle used monofilament fishing lines instead of throwing them away.
- Avoid giving invasive aquatic plants and animals a ride. Thoroughly clean boats, personal watercraft and equipment when transferring them from one water body to another.
“We are bringing together various agencies in a cooperative spirit to work on this very important issue,” added DEP Assistant Commissioner of Natural and Historic Resources Richard Boornazian. “Ultimately, it is the people who enjoy and frequent Barnegat Bay, especially during the summer, who have to buy into this effort. It is their help and cooperation that can really make a difference in prolonging the health of the bay.”
To learn more of Governor Christie’s Action Plan for Barnegat Bay, visit: http://www.barnegatbay.nj.gov.
To learn how to reduce water craft impacts of Barnegat Bay, visit: http://www.nj.gov/dep/barnegatbay/plan-watercraft.htm.
For a map of Barnegat Bay’s 16 Ecologically Sensitive Areas, visit: http://www.nj.gov/dep/barnegatbay/docs/BoaterESA.pdf.
Logo courtesy of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection