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Barnegat Bay Still Suffering “Insidious Ecological Decline”

Murphy DEP continues to implement failed Christie Management Plan

Still no enforcement of Clean Water Act TMDL cleanup requirements

Shitting on the dock of the Bay, wasting time

Rutgers Professor Michael Kennish testifies at Lavallettte hearing (Augut 13, 2012)

Rutgers Professor Michael Kennish testifies at Lavallettte hearing (August 13, 2012)

Almost 7 years after Rutgers scientists warned State legislators that the Barnegat Bay was  suffering an “Insidious Ecological Decline” and bravely called out major deficiencies in Gov. Christie’s “10 Point Management Plan” – which the Murphy DEP still praises, despite its abject failure and contradiction of science – including Rutgers criticism of the fact that DEP has failed to enforce Clean Water Act based NJ State DEP water quality standards and the federal CWA “TMDL” program requirements, we have more of the same from Gov. Murphy’s DEP:

(19/P032) TRENTON – The Department of Environmental Protection has awarded $10 million in grants for local water-quality improvement projects in the Barnegat Bay watershed, an important ecological and economic resource for the state, Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe announced today.

The  projects to be implemented by nonprofit groups, local governments, and state colleges and universities target ways to reduce impacts from stormwater runoff, also known as nonpoint source pollution. Although highly developed, the 660-square-mile watershed is rich in wildlife habitats that help drive the region’s economy.

Note that there is no money provided for all the scientific and regulatory work required to enforce the Clean Water Act’s “Total Maximum Daily Load” (TMDL) program.

We’ve written many times about how the Christie DEP dodged those TMDL regulatory responsibilities for 8 long years, as the water quality and ecological health of the Bay continued to degrade and pollution generating over-development in the watershed proceeded unimpeded by DEP regulation.

DEP has adequate current regulations to enforce CWA TMDL program, specifically these SWQS: see: NJAC 7:9B – 1.14(d) – at page 27)

Except as due to natural conditions, nutrients shall not be allowed in concentrations that render the waters unsuitable for the existing or designated uses due to objectionable algal densities, nuisance aquatic vegetation, diurnal fluctuations in dissolved oxygen or pH indicative of excessive photosynthetic activity, detrimental changes to the composition of aquatic ecosystems, or other indicators of use impairment caused by nutrients.

There is abundant scientific evidence that Barnegat Bay waters are violating the SWQS that is based on a narrative standard the “nutrients shall not be allowed in concentrations that render the waters” :

unsuitable for the existing or designated uses due to objectionable algal densities, nuisance aquatic vegetation, diurnal fluctuations in dissolved oxygen or pH indicative of excessive photosynthetic activity, detrimental changes to the composition of aquatic ecosystems, or other indicators of use impairment caused by nutrients.”

Yet, despite this science, DEP has refused to monitor and enforce compliance with these current “narrative” water quality standards and instead has delayed a TMDL until they develop numeric nutrient standards. That will take many years.

Outrageously, after 8 long years of Christie DEP failure, the Murphy DEP now is adopting the same regulatory avoidance tactics as the Christie DEP, and is relying on the same failed local voluntary programs, and is funding the same compromised, collaborating coastal environmental groups to provide green cover for their failed strategy.

The Murphy DEP press release openly admits that they are still implementing the failed Christie DEP Management Plan:

These projects are a key part of the state’s implementation of the Barnegat Bay Restoration, Enhancement and Protection Strategy.

But the Murphy DEP has taken things a step further in the wrong direction, and is actually worse than the Christie DEP.

While the Murphy DEP continues to implement the failed Christie DEP Management Plan and similarly fails to consider climate change – an egregious flaw, because sea level rise and storm surge will inundate and wipe out many of the projects funded by DEP grants – the Murphy DEP is outsourcing enforcement of the Clean Water Act to private environmental groups who lack legal authority and technical expertise to do the work.

Here is an egregious example:

  • Clean Ocean Action, $600,000 to identify and eliminate pathogens from sanitary sewage sources in the Toms River watershed;

Pollution source trackdown from sanitary sewer discharges and “elimination” of those illegal discharges are DEP’s sole responsibility (unless the work is formally delegated by DEP pursuant to a County Environmental Health Act (CEHA) based county program).

And in addition to the usual corrupt DEP funded suspects (that means you Mr. Dillingham), DEP even managed to try to buy off Rutgers:

  • Rutgers University, $775,000 to develop a watershed restoration plan for southern Barnegat Bay, including Little Egg Harbor Tributaries;

I hope Mike Kennish doesn’t take the bait (especially after Christie DEP managers smeared and tried to intimidate him and to defund his work and prevent publication of his research):

Or, a little closer to where [Rutgers Professor] Lathrop actually works, perhaps Lathrop is aware of the Christie DEP’s attack on fellow Rutgers professor, scientist Mike Kennish,  who criticized DEP and Governor Christie Barnegat Bay Management Plan, a controversy that we alluded to in this recent report, see:

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