Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin today marked the first anniversary of Governor Christie’s comprehensive plan to restore Barnegat Bay by announcing an agreement to preserve the 436-acre Joseph A. Citta Boy Scout Reservation Camp in Ocean County and by providing a progress report on the state’s efforts to bring the bay back from decades of ecological decline.
“Governor Christie and I have made an unprecedented commitment to the restoration of Barnegat Bay, an ecological treasure that is vital to New Jersey residents and the state’s tourism economy,” Commissioner Martin said during a news conference at the camp. “The preservation of this camp is just one of the Administration’s many accomplishments over the past year in implementing this important plan, which establishes a clear and comprehensive course of action to reverse decades of ecological decline. We’ve established a solid foundation for the coming year and beyond.”
Governor Christie launched the 10-point comprehensive plan on Dec. 9, 2010, by making a landmark announcement of an agreement to close the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in Lacey Township a decade ahead of the expiration of its federal operating license.
The Barnegat Bay Plan sets in place multifaceted strategies to restore and enhance the bay, including efforts to reduce stormwater pollution, develop water quality standards, close key gaps in scientific data, improve public stewardship of the bay, and preserve land in the bay’s 660-square-mile watershed.
Toward the plan’s preservation goals, the DEP’s Green Acres Program agreed to purchase the development rights to the Joseph A. Citta Camp for $1 million from the Jersey Shore Boy Scouts Council. Once finalized, the purchase will ensure the camp, located in Ocean Township at the headwaters of Oyster Creek in the Forked River Mountains, will remain forever in a natural state.
Land preservation improves water quality by reducing the impacts of stormwater pollution. Over the past year, the DEP’s Green Acres Program has provided nearly $2.4 million for preservation projects protecting 1,654 acres in the watershed, including additions to Double Trouble State Park, Colliers Mill Wildlife Management Area and the DEP’s Forest Resource Education Center in Jackson.
The Green Acres Program also has entered into an estimated $2.8 million in contracts that will protect another 1,386 acres when they are finalized, including the Joseph Citta camp.
In addition to these land preservation efforts, the Christie Administration over the past year has:
Established the Oyster Creek Safety Advisory Panel consisting of Commissioner Martin, Homeland Security and Preparedness Director Charles B. McKenna and Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory Chief Operating Officer Dr. Adam Cohen to supplement oversight of the safe operation of the Oyster Creek nuclear plant leading up to its 2019 closure. The panel’s first public meeting will be in early 2012.
Made available $20.3 million in low-interest loans and grant-like loans for local government projects to reduce the affects of stormwater pollution through upgrades to stormwater-control systems, construction of wetlands, and purchases of equipment. The projects are expected to go to bid next month, with many groundbreakings to take place in the spring.
Provided nearly $3 million in grants from federal Clean Water Act funds for projects to improve the quality of water flowing into the bay. These grants have been used to establish native plants as buffers to stream corridors and retention ponds, develop a restoration plan for the Metedeconk River watershed, develop a plan by Ocean County to retrofit stormwater basins, develop a tidal wetlands monitoring program, and identify and renovate stormwater basins.
Teamed up with leading research organizations in the region, including Rutgers University and the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium, on a series of 10 studies to fill in critical research gaps, provide baseline data, and assist the department in making policy decisions about steps to restore the bay. These include studies of nutrient indicators, fish and crabs, algae blooms, the increase in the occurrence of stinging sea nettles, shellfish declines, and the benefits of wetlands in reducing the impacts of nutrients.
Launched a new watershed-wide water quality monitoring network to collect data that will improve understanding of conditions in the bay, assess these conditions against water quality standards, and direct restoration. Working with nine partners, 12 sampling events have taken place at 27 locations in the bay or its tributaries. More than 3,500 water sample bottles have been sent to laboratories for analyses and more than 3,000 field measurements have been taken. In partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey, flow measurement devices have been installed in bay tributaries and inlets and work to develop flow models has begun.
Held a massive watershed-wide cleanup effort in October involving some 2,400 people, including DEP senior staff and employees, that removed more than 1,300 bags of trash and recyclables, three 30 cubic-yard trash bins and three dump trucks of litter and debris from the watershed, while raising public awareness of steps residents and visitors can take to protect the bay.
Implemented a tough statewide fertilizer law that restricts applications of chemical fertilizers before heavy rainstorms and during the winter, when the ground is frozen and cannot absorb them. The law prohibits the statewide application of fertilizers by residential applicators from Nov. 1 to March 1, and by commercial applicators from Dec. 1 through March 1. Also, as of Jan. 5, 2012 all lawn-care professionals must be certified in order to apply fertilizer in the state. Rutgers University is administering an online training and certification program.
Evaluated ecologically sensitive areas, launched stakeholder meetings, and began work to reduce the impacts of boats and personal watercraft on the bay. Boats and personal watercraft can damage submerged aquatic vegetation, disrupt aquatic habitats for fish and shellfish, and cause shoreline erosion.
Commissioner Martin was joined by Ocean County Freeholder Gerry P. Little and Ocean Township Mayor Joseph Lachawiec in announcing the preservation of the Boy Scout camp.
Preservation of the camp will create a greenway of protected lands in the Barnegat Bay watershed, linking Wells Mills County Park with other preserved land in the Forked River Mountains. The Boy Scouts will continue using the camp. The general public will have access through trail network connections with the county park.
“We are excited to be working with the DEP in ensuring the Joseph A. Citta Scout Reservation will continue to be a resource for our Scouts and our community for generations to come,” said Craig H. Shelley,” Scout Executive for the Jersey Shore Council.
“This is a truly a great partnership in which the Scouts will be able to continue to provide camping and outdoor recreation while permanently preserving important Pinelands habitat in the Barnegat Bay watershed,” Commissioner Martin said. “I commend the Jersey Shore Boy Scout Council for having the foresight to recognize the importance of this land and then working together toward its preservation.”
Commissioner Martin also honored three Eagle Scouts who worked on badge projects connected to stewardship of the bay. The Commissioner honored Ryan Sullivan of Forked River, who led members of his troop in rehabilitating a trail along the bay; Keith Charette of Forked River, who led a project to remove trash and establish trees and plants in an area near the bay; and Kevin DeMario of Toms River, who installed signs and raised money for buoys to raise awareness about a no-wake zone at Cattus Island County Park.
“These Eagle Scouts are leaders in their community in more ways than one,” Commissioner Martin said. “In addition to embodying the values that are the hallmark of every Eagle Scout, these young men are demonstrating to all of us what it takes to be stewards of the important natural resource that is Barnegat Bay.”
For more information on the Barnegat Bay plan, visit: http://www.nj.gov/dep/barnegatbay/