TRENTON – Volunteers from dozens of organizations braved rainy weather today, fanning out to marshlands, creeks, marinas and the bay itself to clean up trash and debris as part of the Department of Environmental Protection’s Barnegat Bay Blitz.
“I thank these volunteers and commend them for their dedication and spirit of cooperation in helping to restore Barnegat Bay, an ecological treasure that is important to all of New Jersey,” said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin, who personally joined the volunteers in picking up trash from several locations around the bay.
Martin was also joined by his senior management team and other DEP volunteers, many of whom served as team captains in local cleanups.
Schools, senior citizens, environmentalists, businesses, and even military personnel joined in the cleanup effort, marking a significant demonstration of the Christie Administration’s commitment to restoring the bay, which for decades has been undergoing increasing ecological stresses, particularly from fertilizer runoff.
The Christie Administration is implementing a 10-point comprehensive bay restoration plan that includes the safe closure of the Oyster Creek nuclear plant by 2019, enhanced funding for projects to better control stormwater that degrades water quality, reducing nutrient pollution to the bay from fertilizers and launching the first-ever bay-wide water quality monitoring network.
Groups that postponed participation in the cleanup due to poor weather Wednesday plan to do their planned cleanups in the coming week or so.
“While conditions have been less than ideal today, the spirit of camaraderie is high,” Martin said. “Cleanup volunteers, young and old alike, have been working very hard because they care deeply about the future of Barnegat Bay.”
Commissioner Martin kicked off the day-long cleanup by working with students from the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science (MATES) at the Ocean County Vocational Technical School District at marshlands in Stafford Township. He later joined students at Tuckerton Seaport.
Felicity O’Rourke and David Kohler, 12-year-old sixth graders at the Tuckerton Elementary School, helped clean up litter along a trail near the Seaport. O’Rourke loves animals and worries that trash will harm them. Kohler is concerned that rain will carry pollutants from land that will harm fish.
“When I heard about this (cleanup), I had to be part of it,” he said. “I like to clean up and I like the outdoors.”
Teams have been preparing for weeks. Fort Dix provided dozens of service personnel.
“Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is committed to stewardship of the natural resources entrusted to the base,” said Lawrence Lemig, an environmental engineer with the 87th Civil Engineer Squadron. “The service personnel volunteering want to extend that spirit of stewardship to the surrounding communities to enable the base’s goal of improving water quality from the banks of the Delaware River to the shores of Barnegat Bay.”
The environmental group ReClam the Bay worked at various communities from Mantoloking to Tuckerton.
“Our goal is to engage people by growing baby shellfish to be released into the bay,” said ReClam the Bay President Rick Bushnell. “Caring for shellfish draws attention to the condition of the bay and instills a feeling of stewardship in the people who get involved. The DEP-inspired Barnegat Bay Blitz demonstrates the states commitment to encouraging people to get involved.”
“The Barnegat Bay Blitz is one of those opportunities for moving students out of the classroom and hoping they take what we have taught them to become stewards of the watershed,” said Bay Head Elementary School Principal Walter Therien. “On top of picking up bottles and trash, students will compile data of the debris and compare it to past cleanups. Once they’re done, they will put together pod casts of their findings and we will put them up on our school website.”
Much of the trash that is collected threatens to ultimately enter the bay through the discharge of stormwater. Stormwater also carries other pollutants such as common lawn fertilizers, automotive fluids and silt that degrade wildlife habitat and water quality in the bay and its tributaries. The trash collected by volunteers will be turned over to local public works departments for proper disposal.
“Governor Christie and I have made restoration of this important natural and economic asset a top priority for the administration,” Martin said. “One of the main goals of the cleanup blitz is to drive home the point that long-term recovery will take a sustained and dedicated effort by those who live in the watershed and care about the bay. We won’t fix all of the bay’s problems overnight, but we are off to a very strong start.”
Another environmental group chose to boycott the Barnegat Bay cleanup event. “It is going to take more than photo ops and a weak ten point plan to actually clean up the bay. It will take real leadership and action to implement real policies that curb imperious cover, upgrade stream protections, clean up stormwater, and limit nutrients entering the bay,” said Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club. “This is nothing more than a Barnegat Bay public relations blitz that will not doing anything to solve the problems of the bay.”
For more information on the blitz, the Christie administration’s restoration plan for the bay, and how to help, visit: http://www.nj.gov/dep/barnegatbay/bbblitz.htm
Connect with NJTODAY.NET
Join NJTODAY.NET's free Email List to receive occasional updates delivered right to your email address!