By Desirée Taylor
Barnegat Bay and Little Egg Harbor’s ecosystem is fragile and declining. That’s what a recent Rutgers report determined. Environmentalists say the report confirmed their worst fears. “The report by Dr. Michael Kennish confirmed what we’ve known for 20 years … the bay is impaired,” said Britta Wenzel, the Executive Director of Save Barnegat Bay.
There are clear signs the bay is impaired. Environmentalists say the sea life is dying. Meanwhile, jelly fish are on the rise. “The bay is going to be a cesspool of algae and stinging nettles,” said Point Pleasant Borough Councilman Chris Leitner. “No one will want to be here.”
One problem is runoff. Fertilizer from local lawns runs into the bay which causes the sea plants to grow in excess. When they die, they leave a slimy mess on the bottom which chokes and smothers fish, crabs and other sea life.
Save Barnegat Bay helped to draft legislation that Gov. Chris Christie supported which calls for the most restrictive standards in the nation for nitrogen content in fertilizer. And Christie has proposed a 10-point initiative to restore and protect Barnegat Bay. But Wenzel wants the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to take further action.
“We’re waiting for the DEP to declare it impaired so certain standards in the Clean Water Act can take effect which would slow down over development and require certain government agencies to create a diet for the bay,” said Wenzel.
That diet would place a daily limit on how much pollution would be permitted into the bay. A bill that called for that requirement was vetoed by Gov. Christie. Meanwhile, environmentalists say improving storm water control systems and preserving open space will also help to protect the bay.