In early December, NJ Governor Chris Christie issued his Barnegat Bay comprehensive plan of action, 10 steps of policies designed to effectuate actual, lasting, and positive change in the 660-acre Barnegat Bay and its associated watershed. For more on the plan, see here: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/barnegatbay/.
Three months later, here’s an update on the steps that have been taken by the Governor in each part of the Barnegat Bay action plan:
- Close Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant – The Governor and the NJDEP signed a consent order with the energy company that owns this nuclear plant (the oldest in the nation) to end power generation within the next 8 years (by 2019). This change in the plant’s plan will be reflected in a new water discharge permit that has not yet been released by the DEP for public review and comment. COA will review that permit to ensure that the consent order leads to the actual permanent closure of the plant.
- Fund Stormwater Runoff Mitigation Projects – The state has provided $10 million in grants for stormwater basin upkeep and repair for use on the Bay watershed’s approx. 2,500 stormwater basins. This step is in addition to the pressure the Legislature put on the Department of Transportation when it recently passed a law forcing the Department to include stormwater repairs in its annual capital improvement action plans (that bill, A3606, was signed into law by the Governor on January 5th, 2011).
- Reduce Nutrient Pollution from Fertilizer – Also on January 5th, 2011, the Governor signed into law the nation’s broadest fertilizer law –a move that will immediately lead to the reduction of pollution into the Bay from fertilizer use on lawns. This law, which doesn’t apply to agriculture, will also impact the rest of the state and is being used as a template for other states that are already taking actions to pass similar laws in their states.
- Require Post-Construction Soil Restoration – Almost two months ago, the Governor made good on his promise to sign into law the Legislature’s bill that would require the state soil conservation committee adopt standards concerning soil restoration measures – a bill that should change the way exposed earth is handled post-construction.
- Acquire Land in the Watershed – The Governor plans to use state revolving funds and the green acres program to purchase space in the Barnegat Bay watershed for permanent protection. COA is unaware of any concrete steps taken for this action item yet in 2011.
- Establish a Special Area Management Plan – The Governor’s plan to work with the Barnegat Bay Partnership (out of Ocean County College) to develop a “SAMP” is already underway – the NJDEP’s coastal zone program office has begun to work out the details of what that SAMP would look like. COA is investigating the SAMP’s early-stage features and will be commenting on it soon.
- Adopt More Rigorous Water Quality Standards – The NJDEP adopted “narrative nutrient criteria” for all of the state’s coastal waters on December 21, 2010. These narrative criteria provide descriptions of the undesirable ecological conditions that exist when nutrient levels are too high and can be used to set standards for all coastal waterways that will help lead to binding requirements on polluters.
- Educate the Public – COA is not aware of specific actions the NJDEP is taking for increasing public awareness of the Bay’s problems. COA, however, will continue our Barnegat Bay Buddy and Student Ocean Advocates programs in Ocean and Monmouth Counties – programs that, we hope, will inspire future generations to be stewards of the Barnegat Bay ecosystem. Read more on those programs here: http://cleanoceanaction.org/index.php?id=84
- Fill in the Gaps on Research – The NJDEP has begun to take stock of its Barnegat Bay knowledge-base as part of the process to develop a TMDL for the region – this process will help the agency determine where it needs to focus additional research, if any is needed.
- Reduce Water Craft Impacts – The Governor has initiated review into how best to reduce water craft impacts to the Bay and may soon be designating much of the Bay as a Conservation Zone where recreational boating will be limited to certain non-ecologically-vital channels and areas so that shallow waterways and inlets go undisturbed.