Home > Uncategorized > DEP Decade of Delay on Barnegat Bay Warrants EPA Intervention

DEP Decade of Delay on Barnegat Bay Warrants EPA Intervention

Yesterday, I wrote EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck a letter, requesting that EPA intervene to force a TMDL on Barnegat Bay  to slow the “insidious ecological decline” and restore water quality (see below for text of letter).

I shared that letter with NJ legislators and media.

So, we were pleased to read this morning that the Star Ledger editorial board agrees with both our assessment of the Christie Administration’s failed effort and the need for EPA to intervene

(see: Christie administration has yet to do enough to stem Barnegat Bay pollution

So, time for drastic steps to fight this problem: The federal Environmental Protection Agency must step in, based on its authority under the Clean Water Act, and set strict limits on nutrient pollution in the bay. Up until this point, the state has refused to do so.

See the text of the letter below for the 10 year history of the DEP delays on pulling the TMDL trigger.

DEP has wasted a decade, as the Bay’s ecological death accelerates and rampant over-development in the watershed proliferates faster than stinging jellyfish.

Hit the links below to read the underlying regulatory documents.

Dear Regional Administrator Enck:

Below please find a link to the Asbury Park Press coverage of yesterday’s joint legislative hearing on Barnegat Bay.

As you know, I recently wrote to advise you that DEP recently proposed delisting portions of the Bay from the current impaired waters list.

As you also know, I’ve previously written to advise that Barnegat Bay was included on the list of impaired waters required to undergo a TMDL pursuant to the September 2002 US EPA – NJDEP TMDL MOA, which identified the Bay as a “high priority” for TMDL development.

The Bay was also listed as impaired on the EPA approved DEP 2002 303(d) list

The 2002 EPA-DEP MOA provided in pertinent part:

“IV. Schedule for establishment of TMDL’s

“… This schedule …  shall ensure the  the establishment of all TMDLs on the approved 2002 CWA Section 303(d) list by March 31,  2011.”

Bay impairments included (in 2002) dissolved oxygen, pathogens, fish PCBs, and a suite of toxic heavy metals: arsenic, copper, lead, nickel, and zinc.

Portions of the Bay remain impaired and listed on the 2010 current 303(d) listCurrent impairments include DO, mercury, and PCB, but I am unsure of the status of the other metals (I think they were delisted).

Subsequent to the 2002 MOA, the EPA approved DEP 2004 “303(d) integrated Report“, repeated the 2002 listing and the NJ DEP’s HIGH priority ranking.

A TMDL for the Bay was legally due by March 31, 2011, almost 2 years ago.

As you also know, for many years US EPA has been funding and overseeing DEP work on Barnegat Bay, including: 1) nutrient monitoring, 2) water quality assessment methods, 3) development of bio-criteria, 4) nutrient management strategy, and 5) surface water quality standards development issues.

These substantial EPA resource commitments  and reciprocal NJ DEP administrative output expectations have been codified in several NEPPS and PPG agreements between US EPA and NJ DEP over this time period.

In light of Professor Kennish’s recently published science and testimony yesterday, given the aforementioned federal funding and regulatory oversight, it is well past time that EPA pulled the trigger and directed NJ DEP to initiate the TMDL process on Barnegat Bay immediately.

FYI, given the DEP and Christie Administrations intransigence on this issue, I am working with NJ legislators to take action to appeal to US EPA to enforce the Clean Water Act with respect to Section 303(d) requirements that are applicable to the Bay.

For example, last session I believe there was a Concurrent Resolution that urged EPA to support a TMDL. But State legislative options are limited by Governor Christie’s veto powers.

It would be much easier if EPA Region 2 would initiate action to encourage DEP to meet TMDL obligations on the Bay by threatening to withhold federal Clean Water Act funding.

In the alternative, we would encourage US EPA to initiate the TMDL work themselves.

We look forward to your earliest and favorable consideration of this request.


Bill Wolfe, Director



PO Box 112
Ringoes, NJ  08551
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  1. Bill Neil
    August 15th, 2012 at 11:53 | #1


    I was wondering where the organization Save Barnegat Bay is on this issue; and come to think of it, Cindy Zipf and Clean Ocean Action and the American Littoral Society?

  2. August 15th, 2012 at 22:05 | #2

    @Bill Neil

    Bill – SBB has come around – I believe they support a TMDL and Willie DeCamp had an excellent Op-Ed back in April:


    COA is supporting and not criticizing the Gov. 10 Point Plan – and is silent (as far as I know) on TMDL. I’ve called them out four being in the tank for Christie, see this:


    Littoral Society has been in general support of TMDL, but they are recipients of $1 million NJDEP grant to study the stormwater detention basins and have not been in the lead on advocating a TMDL. They worked with the Christie Administration during TMDL legislative process and bought into some problem arguments – here is their website, which doe snot emphasize TMDL:


  3. Bill Neil
    August 16th, 2012 at 13:44 | #3


    Since I began my environmental career at the American Littoral Society under Dery Bennett, and continued to work on coastal issues, especially the “strengthening” of the coastal law – CAFRA – and trying to get regulatory teeth in the State Plan, with a great deal of resistance from Republican conservationists on the merits of a State Plan with consequences, I feel obligated to add a few comments.

    1. Everyone could see this coming and a good deal of the blame should be placed on the power of the NJ Builders and the real estate industry, who exert power all over the state but especially in the coastal areas, where the development process is “supercharged.”

    2. I knew it was a losing battle to try to protect coastal water quality in the most threatened areas – like Barnegat Bay – under a CAFRA law that was indifferent to the volume and density of suburban development. And we were unable to win stronger protections via that law, despite many repeat performances, the last one I recall was under Governor Whitman, whose staffers were saying their proposals would do the job.

    3. It is very tough to clean up the pollution that is a direct by-product of “the way people live” after the suburban development is in place. I understand that Willie de Camp had a hell of a tough time getting even a moderate fertilizer-reduction bill passed.

    4. The results demonstrate the truth that economic development and environmental protection are not always compatible – certainly not under the terms which took place surrounding Barnegat Bay.

    5. The power of the building and real estate industry is truly awesome when deployed inside the corridors of power at the state house and the party fundraising mechanisms, and the NJ Builders did a good job saying environemntalists like me were blocking the American Dream of home ownership via regulatory plans. But they never owned up to the costs of ruined resources, and one might ponder, given the state of the Bay, to the property values going down as the once former “amenity” decays.

    6. I’ve come to see the power of local governments to create financial value via their zoning authority as literally the creation of money; next to the Federal Reserve’s powers, they have the second greatest ability to create money from land and natural resources by increasing density or allowing building in the first place. It is not the sole reason, but a strong contributor the historically high levels of corrpution between local and county officials and the private economic actors who seek their favors and the magic of money by zoning.

    7. I don’t know if it is possible to clean up this Bay; under a Green New Deal that was willing to spend domestically what we now spend (spent) on building the 900 plus military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan – it might be. But under current Republican Right philosophy humans apparently can’t do nature any harm, and even if they took the giant step in admitting the damage, ongoing and past cumulative, they have the added ideological burdens of being anti-gov’t, anti-spending and anti-regulatory – which ought to lead every environmentally friendly citizen too take a good hard look at any conservationist claiming to be a good Republican and a good conservationist: I say it is impossible intellectually unless you believe ideas can be twisted like pretzels and still retain their meanings.

    I’ll conclude with the observation, confirming just how hard the clean-up will be – and the costs, by mentioning the largest storm-water proposal I ever came across. It was the one by the city of Providence Rhode Island, in order to protect Narragansett Bay – to build a giant underground stormwater storage facility to retain the stormwater and avoid jointly sending it at the same time to treatment plants – which then would be overwhelmed with their normal sewage treatment duties plus all that run off. It made sense, but was quite expensive. It was the boldest idea/project in the nation in the early years of the 2000’s – but I don’t know if it every came off. Of course it now runs against the grain of the new stormwater treatment trends: to retain and infiltrate all the stormwater right on existing sites: which is not cheap or easy either when one multiplies the number of sites times the cost.

    My final comment is this: to all the legislators and regulators who heard me speak or read my written testimony and gave me that “we’re realists, you’re dreaming” look, which included the unspoken thought that I was exaggerating the pending damage or costs to continued physical development in the wrong locations, I now urge you to ponder your complicity in the results. F. Scot Fitzgerald was right in the closing pages of “The Great Gatsby”: the green light for full speed ahead always is shining at the end of the dock, and it continually blinds us to the costs and consequences of running that light, even after it has gone from yellow to red. But I doubt that Governor Christie will be quoting from the Great Gatsby in his forthcoming speech.

  1. August 20th, 2012 at 09:06 | #1
  2. April 27th, 2014 at 04:05 | #2
  3. May 5th, 2015 at 18:31 | #3
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