Friday, July 22, 2016

Mid-Atlantic “Ocean Action Plan”

In early July, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body, a collection of State, Federal, and Tribal, and Mid-Atlantic Fisheries representatives, released a draft Mid-Atlantic “Ocean Action Plan”. The Plan is the culmination of a process initiated in 2010 by President Obama’s executive order and seeks to balance ocean ecosystem health with the demands for increased development ocean use. There are some benefits to these efforts:


   1)    The Ocean Action Plan represents an important conversation between federal and state agencies, the creation of collaborative relationships and open lines of communication between these government entities for projects that will impact the coastal resources of the Mid-Atlantic region.
   2)      The Plan also commits to improved data gathering, research, and identification of areas for further study.
   3)      The Plan has invested in and supports the development of useful data synthesis products such as the MARCO portal, habitat suitability models, and other spatial use mapping visuals.
However, COA has been concerned from the start with the rigid and “top down” public input model which has limited meaningful public involvement. In addition, the plan relies solely on existing legal authority, making it unclear how agencies will use the plan in their decision-making process. Many federal and state agencies appear reluctant to formally incorporate the plan and its data products into agency guidance and regulations. Furthermore, the identification of areas of the ocean deemed “Ecologically Rich Areas” could potentially create “winners and losers” in an interconnected and fluid ocean environment. Finally, the Ocean Action Plan does not consider land-based and near coastal activities, oil and gas exploration and development, as well as the recent identification and leasing of nearly half a million acres off of New York and New Jersey to wind energy development.


COA encourages participation in the 60-day public comment period through September 6, 2016 - Public comments may be submitted by September 6, 2016, by sending an email to: MidAtlanticRPB@boem.gov or by writing to: 

Robert P. LaBelle, MidA RPB Federal Co-Lead
BOEM
45600 Woodland Road
Mailstop: VAM-BOEM DIR
Sterling, VA 20166

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Summer Drought Watch



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Summers in New Jersey are a beautiful thing, especially down the shore. However, the Garden State is experiencing a summer trend of intense heat and minimal rainfall exacerbated by climate change. These weather patterns stress animals and habitat as well as surface and groundwater supplies relied upon by humans for drinking water, irrigation and recreation.


While the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has not officially announced a drought watch or warning yet, low ground and surface water levels have the State concerned. These drought watches and warnings are only focused on human use, and do not account for the impacts to ecosystems which may already be occurring. Therefore, COA recommends that citizens become water aware now, and incorporate the water conservation measures found at http://nj.gov/dep/drought/ideas.html. Keep an eye on the status of drought in New Jersey by visiting http://nj.gov/dep/drought/status.html. Stay cool, stay water aware, and help conserve the most precious resource of all.  

Sustainable Jersey's Film Series

Film Series

Join Sustainable Jersey, Food & Water Watch and COA's Zach Lees on August 9, 2016 at the Wall Township Courtroom from 6:30 - 8:30 for a showing of the film "Tapped" and discussion on how plastic water bottles are harming Monmouth County and beyond. This is free and open to the public. Please e-mail hubs@sustainablejersey.com for more information.



Governor Christie signs law prohibiting the harvesting of Diamonback Terrapins

On Monday, July 18, Governor Christie signed a law that finally prohibits the harvesting of Diamondback Terrapin Turtles, designating the turtle as a “non-game indigenous species”, and making it illegal to catch a terrapin or disturb its nest and eggs.

Diamondback Terrapins were once found in large numbers in backbays and marshes from Massachusetts to Florida. However, the turtle was nearly hunted to extinction in the 1900’s. While populations have somewhat recovered, human activity remains a serious threat to this iconic New Jersey coastal wetland species. Coastal development has led to habitat destruction and loss of nesting sites. Roads create nearly impassable barriers and result in large numbers of roadkills every nesting season. Wetland and marsh habitat has been either filled in, bulkheaded, or lost to subsidence (sinking), climate change caused sea level rise, and human disturbance such as open water trenching and erosion.