TRENTON -New Jersey’s multi-billion dollar tourism and fishing industries will not be affected by the Gulf oil spill this summer, but are being threatened by misinformation, Commissioner Bob Martin said in testimony before the state Assembly Monday.
The commissioner told the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee the leaking oil remains confined in the Gulf of Mexico and has not reached the Loop Current that could take it towards the tip of Florida, up the Atlantic Coast towards the Carolinas where the Gulf Stream would carry it eastward and out to sea. The oil could only reach New Jersey through a sequence of unlikely, atypical events — and even then would not reach our coast until at least late autumn.
“Our beaches are clean and our tourism industry is safe from oil throughout the summer,” said Martin. “Our fishing and seafood industries are safe because all of the migratory fish were already here for the season before the spill occurred.”
“The greatest risk the state faces right now from the Gulf oil spill is misinformation — so it’s important to get the facts right,” Martin told the committee. “It is crucial that we make plans and decisions based on facts and science, and keep the public accurately informed in order to avoid creating issues where they may not exist.”
In his testimony, Martin explained to the Committee the unlikely sequence of events that would be required for oil from the Gulf to reach New Jersey:
* Oil from the spill has reached the Florida Panhandle but has not made its way to the Loop Current, which would carry it around the southern tip of Florida.
* If the oil gets into the Loop Current, it would be carried north only to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, where the Gulf Stream would carry it out into the Atlantic Ocean towards Europe.
* An eddy then would have to break off from the Gulf Stream, which is not typical -eddies are typically engulfed back into the current – for a small portion of the oil to head back westward towards the Atlantic Coast
* Even then such as eddy would have to make landfall along the coast of Massachusetts or eastern Long Island – north of New Jersey – to reach us because the current along the New Jersey coast moves southward.
It is possible that hurricanes or severe storms could change the course of the oil, but they would also help break it up. If oil does come our way later in the year, it would most likely be in the form of isolated tar balls, not as slicks of the type occurring in the Gulf states.
While it is improbable the BP oil spill will have any effect on the Jersey Shore or the state’s fishing industry, the DEP is taking no chances, said Martin. In May, the department formed a special Gulf Spill Team to closely monitor the situation, to create a unique scientific model of the likely path of the contaminated waters, and to develop a plan of action if the oil should reach New Jersey.
“Among the most important things we can do are marshal the facts to keep the public informed, support State Office of Emergency Management efforts and counter any misinformation that could damage New Jersey’s economy,” Martin told legislators.
To provide the public with accurate facts, the DEP has set up a “Gulf Oil Spill Update” on its Web site at http://www.nj.gov/dep that has New Jersey-specific information, along with links to additional resources.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of the Gulf Coast, the families of the 11 men who lost their lives in the oil rig explosion, and the persons who are losing their livelihoods due to what is the largest environmental disaster in history of the U.S.,” said Martin. “But, thankfully, we do not expect any impact on New Jersey this summer.”
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