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Plan to Protect and Enhance Barnegat Bay to be Finalized; Blueprint to Curb Pollution and Ensure a Long, Healthy Life for the Bay Is Signed and Sent to NJ Governor and EPA Administrator for Final Approval

Release Date: 01/16/2001
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(#01006) Island Heights, N.J. -- After public review and comment, a draft Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP), was approved by a policy committee made up of federal, state, local and non-governmental officials today and will be sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator and New Jersey Governor for final approval. The plan plots a course for the Bay's healthy and productive future. The CCMP details 70 actions needed to enhance and protect this unique resource for generations to come.  Primary among these actions are controlling polluted storm water runoff, improving land use planning, protecting and rejuvenating habitats, eliminating boat sewage, and curbing damage caused by personal water craft. Projects for which there are firm commitments will cost about $9 million, which will be shared by federal, state and local governments and nonprofit organizations. Additional actions for which commitments are being sought will add approximately $8 million to the total.

The draft CCMP was revised to clarify the process through which problems are identified, priorities are set and actions are formulated to achieve program goals and objectives. Language detailing the CCMP's actions has also been improved to reflect updated costs and commitments.  The plan also includes a revised monitoring plan to measure the progress of implementing the CCMP over the next decade.

"We are one step closer to finalizing this plan, which I am confidant will serve as a model for watershed plans around the country," said Jeanne M. Fox, EPA Regional Administrator, who is a New Jersey resident and long-time supporter of the efforts to improve Barnegat Bay. "I commend all who have dedicated countless hours and provided extraordinary vision and expertise to make this the best plan possible. As my career with EPA comes to a close, I look at my involvement in this plan with great pride. We made it to this point today thanks to the tireless support of citizens and local groups."

"This is a tremendous culmination of efforts that will result in a great plan to further protect the Barnegat Bay Estuary and improve water quality for decades to come. I commend Ocean County officials for their commitment to coordinate implementation of the plan and all the participants who have worked to reach this milestone," said New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner, Bob Shinn.

David Siddons, the President of the Ocean County Mayors Association and a member of the Policy Committee, commented, "The future of each municipality is dependent on the well being of the Barnegat Bay, as well as the streams, rivers and lands that drain to it. The Barnegat Bay Estuary's CCMP provides a blueprint to guide each municipality on the use, and the impact, on the Barnegat Bay watershed and will enhance Ocean County's future."

"Ocean County is making a strong commitment to administer the implementation of this Management Plan into the future, in order to assure the protection of our environment and to maintain a strong, vibrant economy for our citizens," said James Lacey, Ocean County Freeholder and member of the Policy Committee.

"Ten years ago this started out as a local initiative, which led to the formation of the Barnegat Bay Watershed Association, now called the "Barnegat Bay Watershed and Estuary Foundation," said Thomas Fote, representative of both the Citizen Advisory and the Science and Technical Advisory Committees. "We now have a Final Draft Management Plan and the Barnegat Bay Watershed and Estuary Foundation will play an important role in its implementation."

Barnegat Bay stretches 42 miles from the Point Pleasant Canal to Little Egg Inlet. Its watershed, the area from which all of the water draining into the Bay comes, encompasses nearly all 660 square miles of Ocean County. The Bay, with its clean sandy beaches and superb crabbing and fishing, supports a thriving $1.7 billion tourism industry and provides more than 51,000 jobs.  Ironically, the very success of the Bay is threatening its future. Development has increased the volume of polluted runoff contaminated with diluted chemicals, pathogens and fertilizers that impair water quality. Recreational craft have damaged eel grass beds that provide food and habitat for crabs and other shellfish, seahorses, juvenile fish and wintering waterfowl.

In 1995, EPA designated the Barnegat Bay as one of only 28 "Estuaries of National Significance" that make up EPA's National Estuary Program. Under this program, EPA provides funding and staffing, which is augmented by state and local government resources, and works cooperatively with state and local entities to first assess, then alleviate environmental problems of a particular estuary.

The CCMP calls for key measures to:

    • Assist municipalities in achieving compliance with EPA Phase II Municipal Stormwater Rules.
    • Develop Total Maximum Daily Loads (more stringent pollution discharge limits) for areas listed as impaired waterbodies.
    • Institute controls for management of water demand and water conservation.
    • Eliminate the discharge of boat sewage into the Bay by promoting pump out facilities.
    • Apply to EPA for No Discharge Zone designation for Barnegat Bay.
    • Develop a "Clean Marinas" program to assist marina managers in employing best management practices for control of storm water and runoff from their facilities.
    • Conduct a Barnegat Bay ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study.
    • Provide education and technical training to local government officials and other coastal decision-makers in the Barnegat Bay watershed.
    • Work with willing sellers on public acquisition of critical natural land.
    • Coordinate and integrate management of federal lands to increase the value of natural habitats.