Monday, June 1, 2020

Eyes on the Rivers: Citizen Reports Lead to NJDEP Investigation

This May, COA received numerous reports from concerned citizens about fish kills and cloudy, brown water in the Navesink and Shrewsbury Rivers. The NJDEP was alerted and responded with an investigation. NJDEP Enforcement observed the fish kill and concluded that no sewage had been discharged into the river. With sewer malfunction ruled out, the NJDEP Bureau of Marine Water Monitoring conducted additional sampling and monitoring investigations on the Navesink River.  The NJDEP concluded that there is an algal bloom occurring in the Navesink River, consisting of Prorocentrum minimum at concentrations of 60,000 cells/mL. 

Algae blooms of this species are often called a “mahogany tide” due to the reddish-brown discoloration of the water. When these algae die off, it can cause low oxygen levels, potentially resulting in a fish kill. According to NJDEP, the fish kills being observed in the Two Rivers are routine this time of the year and typically caused by low oxygen levels.  Oxygen depletion can be triggered either by algal blooms or by overcrowding of fish in large schools in shallower waters.  The Navesink is not a primary recreational waterbody and does not fall under NJDEP’s CCMP bloom  monitoring protocol, and according to DEP, preliminary results indicate that this Prorocernum minimum may be non-toxic.  However, there are also reports that indicate that P.minimum could release hepatotoxins that are potentially toxic to fish.  COA is investigating more and will follow-up with updates.  To report water quality concerns to NJDEP, call 1-877-WARN-DEP.  COA also encourages citizens to share similar sightings via email ( 
For the latest updates on water quality, follow Rally for the Navesink on Facebook.

Navigating Unmapped Waters COA’s Spring Student Summit Goes Virtual!

For the past 31 years, hundreds of public and private middle school students (grades 5-8) have gathered at Gateway National Recreation Area - Sandy Hook in mid-May for COA’s Spring Student Summit. Here, they are given the unique opportunity to be “scientists for the day,” participating in a multitude of hands-on presentations and field activities taught by outstanding local educational professionals and volunteers.

While COA could not physically gather this May to host the 32nd Annual Spring Student Summit, we were able to extend its legacy by launching our first ever Virtual Spring Student Summit! Over 600 students from 15 schools in northern and central New Jersey participated online, learning about the ecological significance of the NY/NJ coast, its threats from “people pollution,” and ways to be the solution!  

Though geographically distant, students showed unity in learning about our marine environment by all participating during the week of May 11th. In doing so, they became part of a broader educational effort, as if they were all together on the shores of Sandy Hook, as originally planned.
COA thanks our true-blue sponsors, The OceanFirst Foundation and Eloise and John Pound, for making this program possible! It truly was a "sea-rific" success!


After a four-year fight, organizations and citizens on both sides of the ocean in the NY/NJ region are celebrating the strong bi-state denial of permits on May 15 for the proposed Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) pipeline project. All can salute NJ Governor Murphy and NJDEP, and NY Governor Cuomo and NYDEC for recognizing that this project would have devastated the environment. 

The mighty Anti-NESE coalition, led by COA, earned a clear win for the environment, economy, and the future.  COA galvanized a coalition of many grassroots groups who forged ahead in challenging times, including repeated NESE applications, denials, and withdrawals, and the current pandemic, which limited public participation and rallying efforts.  

Over the years, thousands of citizens signed multiple petitions and hundreds of people attended rallies, meetings, and hearings. Pages of comments from citizens and groups were submitted several times to state agencies. Notably, 100% of the comments submitted to NJDEP for this latest application were opposed to NESE.  

On May 18th nearly 150 advocates from NJ and NY celebrated the victory over NESE together virtually via a Zoom rally
Further, 21 NJ municipalities and the Monmouth County and Somerset County Boards of Chosen Freeholders passed resolutions opposing NESE. Also, independent research, supported by COA, was key in providing information to agencies.  
To mark this momentous victory, nearly 150 advocates from NJ and NY celebrated together virtually via a Zoom rally on May 18th, complete with upbeat music, stories and messages from coalition members, and campaign photos. The company proposing NESE, Williams/Transco, indicated that it will not reapply. 

However, both states’ decisions legally allow the company to file an Administrative appeal; the deadline to file an appeal in NY is June 14, 2020, and June 26, 2020 for NJ. While we must remain vigilant, we can revel in this hard-won victory for our air, land, and water. Congratulations!

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Welcome, Kristen Grazioso, to the COA Crew!

COA welcomes Kristen Grazioso, Education Coordinator, to our team! In March, Kristen jumped right in during these challenging times, and hit the ground running on programs and materials to educate students of all ages about ocean pollution issues. Her knowledge and experience, as well as a true zest for environmental education and a passion for the environment, has prepared her well to be part of our crew.

Kristen graduated from University of California – Santa Barbara with a degree in environmental studies and a minor in education. Kristen has experience in a school setting, and with nonprofit organizations and youth centers and camps. Prior to her employment, COA was already familiar with Kristen’s ability to communicate environmental issues and solutions. Kristen was training to become a COA Education Ambassador, and served as a workstation and field trip leader in recent Student Summits.

Kristen will lead and develop our education programs and initiatives. She is working on the launch of our new SEAL program for high school students, thanks to funding from Impact 100 Jersey Shore. Kristen is also blazing the virtual education trail for COA by transforming our Spring Student Summit into a fun, informative, and engaging virtual experience for middle school students this May.  Kristen brings her bi-coastal experiences to COA’s team. Welcome aboard, Kristen!