Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wall Township Environmental Summit

This past Monday night, the Wall Township Environmental Advisory Committee hosted their 7th Annual(!) Environmental Summit giving the public the opportunity to engage their elected officials on any and all pressing environmental issues.  Legislators from New Jersey’s 11th Legislative District, Senator Sean Kean and Assemblyman David Rible were on hand to address the concerns of many local residents who came out to have their voices heard.  Clean Ocean Action was pleased to be among those concerned voices.

Sen. Kean raised the issue the recent legislative redistricting that has just taken place in New Jersey.  The new Legislative map puts both Sen. Kean and Assm. Rible in what will be the new 30th District. Both Kean and Rible will be running for the General Assembly seats while the 30th’s existing Senator Robert Singer will be running for the Senate seat.  To find out what district your town will now fall into click here.

One of the first issues raised by the public concerned the flooding of Wreck Pond.  Residents wanted to make it clear that the flooding occurs after every big rainfall and not just after the “100 Year Storm.”  Residents were well aware that Wall’s watershed drains into Wreck Pond and the burden of the pond’s clean up should not fall on just Spring Lake, but multiple municipalities as well as the State.  A representative from the Environmental Commission of Spring Lake suggested that Natural Resource Damage funding be looked into as both Kean and Rible cited funding as the major hurdle for Wreck Pond’s rehabilitation.  Hurricane Irene has created a sense of urgency with the legislators and their constituents many of whom are still cleaning up their basements and homes in the wake of the hurricane’s flooding.  Sen. Kean assured the group that every possible funding opportunity for Wreck Pond will be looked at.  Additionally, Assm. Rible cited his collaboration with Congressman Chris Smith, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Mayor’s office to continue working on this “action item.”

The need for dredging of Shark River was another central theme of the night.  Lifelong residents who have seen Shark River’s best days stood up to warn the elected officials and the public that if action isn’t taken soon, the river could become a “lifeless polluted mud flat”.  Members of the public expressed their frustration with State money going to less important projects than the dredging of the river.  Senator Kean said that the issue had been taken to the highest levels of the administration and the DEP, but did mention a lack of outcry from the public on the issue.  Assm. Rible said that while dredging plans have looked great on paper in the past, the problem lies in finding usable dredging sites.

With the rehabilitation of Wreck Pond and Shark River dredging taking up much of the discussion, there was still room for residents to stress the importance of wind and solar energy, their concerns about pesticides and herbicides being used in public places, and their opposition to offshore drilling for oil and natural gas.

Clean Ocean Action had the chance to thank Sen. Kean and Assm. Rible for their leadership and support of recent critical legislation that takes steps to keep our waterways clean as well as ask for 3 point plan on what they are doing to protect the ocean.  Kean not only mentioned that he had preceded the Governor in his opposition to Liquefied Natural Gas, but declared that he would always be an ally of COA in preventing ocean pollution. 

All in all the night was a success allowing the public to engage their elected officials on issues that matter to them – which is what democracy is all about! 

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