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State of the Shore

Yours truly, landing a small bluefish hooked by Benson Chiles on Sandy Hook point. (photo by Benson)

Yours truly, landing a bluefish hooked by Benson Chiles on Sandy Hook point (photo by Benson)

[Update: Star Ledger coverage and Asbury Park Press story]

I went out to Sandy Hook today for the 8th annual “”State of the Shore“, sponsored by the NJ Marine Sciences Consortium.

Given the Consortium’s science focus, this PR oriented event is generally criticized by environmental advocates as just another typical shore tourism photo op stunt.

So I was pleasantly surprised that the event’s agenda provided more than just the typical tourism promotion and a singular focus on the DEP beach bacteria sampling program. 

Dr. Jon Miller, Assistant professor at Stevens Institute of Technology, gave a brief presentation of the “State of the Shore” in terms of  2009 storm impacts on beaches. During the 2009 season, the NJ coast was battered by a series of severe storms that were the worst in the last 20 years of monitoring in terms of storm intensity, beach erosion, and storm damage.

While some desperately hoped that the damaging 2009 storm season would not become “the new normal”, I couldn’t help but think about global warming model predictions of far more severe storm frequency and intensity. So get used to it – global warming is here and the 2009 season was just the beginning of global warming impacts.

Of course, no invited scientists spoke about this inconvenient fact, or, for that matter, said anything at all about global warming driven sea level rise, shore vulnerability, the need for adaptation of NJ’ over-developed shoreline, or limit development in high hazard areas.

Dr. Louise Wooten of Georgian Court University gave a brief talk about the invasive dune species, Asiatic sand sedge (Carex kobomugi). According to Wooten, at curent rates of invasive species colonization, there will be no native dune vegetation in NJ in the next 20 years! I found this the most shocking statement all day.

Dr. Josh Kohut of Rutgers University gave a brief talk about efforts to get a better understanding of dangerous rip currents.

DEP Commissioner Bob Martin emphasized that New Jerseyans want 3 things for beaches: that they are safe, clean, and open.

He said Governor Christie’s made shore protection a priority and illustrated that by the Governor’s oppostion to off shore oil drilling (before the Gulf spill); his opposition to off shore LNG plants; and his support for beach replenishment project funding.

Curious, while opposing hypothetical off shore LNG, Christie has done nothing to protect NJ from real threats of natural gas drilling, known as “fracking”, in neighboring NY and Pennyslvania. This gas drilling represents a serious threat to the Delaware River and NJ’s water supply.

Martin clearly backed away from his press release earlier this week announcing the NJ gulf oil spill monitoring team. Martin went out of his way to downplay any Gulf oil spill risks to NJ beaches. I got the sense that he realized the his prior press release was ill advised and in poor judgment.

[Update: just read the NBC TV interview, and must revise this conclusion. Martin is ramping up the gulf oil fear, not tamping it down. I think this is just plain irresponsible given the low probability and deeply hypocritical given that Martin’s own deregulatory policies are what led to teh Gulf blowout]

Unfortunately, Martin did the same old DEP dance, by touting the limited and misleading beach bacteria sampling program, while ignoring broader ocean/coastal ecosystem health concerns.

I was disappointed but not surprised by the fact that Martin failed to talk about the 800 pound Gorilla in the room i.e. lessons from the gulf oil spill in terms of the failures associated with lax regulatory oversight by the federal Minerals Management Service and how that failure would influence his NJ state policy and DEP oversight of NJ industries.

Martin emphasized the $40 billion economic value of shore tourism. But he failed to note the economic benefits of eco-tourism, birding, and the value of recreational and commercial fisheries.

Martin also failed to mention NJ’s newly legislatively enacted ecosystem based management policy, and the newly created Coastal and Ocean Protection Council. Governor Christie has yet to nominate appoitments to that Council, while Martin has failed to embrace or fund ecosystem based managment.

Of course, all of the above is unlikely to be reported in tomorrow press, which I predict will focus exclusively on the “Top 10 NJ Beaches”.[Update – TV 12 took the tourism bait, but I was wrong on this too – see news story links above]




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