EDITORIAL: Barnegat Bay a blemish on Earth Day
ASBURY PARK PRESS, April 22, 2015
Today, the 45th anniversary of Earth Day, is an opportune time to pose the question: How is the Garden State faring in saving its slice of the Earth?
Under the stewardship of Gov. Chris Christie, the answer has to be “not well at all.” That extends to all matters environmental in New Jersey these days. In our annual report card for Gov. Christie back in January, we gave him a D. And he has done nothing since to bring up his grade.
Based on his record, Christie seems to care little about the environment or green energy, although he will occasionally wave the New Jersey banner on issues particularly important here, as in his opposition to offshore drilling. But he has demonstrated time and again he is no friend of the environment.
That is clearly evident when it comes to protecting Barnegat Bay, as Staff Writer Todd Bates reported in his Sunday story, “Barnegat Bay’s rescue plan is dead in the water.” The standards for restoring the bay to good health, enunciated as part of Gov. Chris Christie’s much-ballyhooed 10-point plan to save the bay, are more than three years overdue. In August, Bates examined the progress of Christie’s plan. His overall grade was D-. Again, no discernible progress has been made since then.
The three most important areas where the plan has fallen short:
1. There has been no progress addressing the issue of compacted soil, which enables polluted stormwater to run straight into the bay. Restored soil — earth that absorbs runoff — reduces the amount of pollution reaching the 42-mile-long bay. The Christie administration deemed an initial soil restoration proposal too costly and wants a cost-benefit study on a revised proposal. Apparently the governor has yet to grasp the irony involved in the fact that his hold-up of elements of his plan to save the bay is a drag on the $4 billion economic engine the bay represents.
2. Restoring the bay requires curtailing development around the bay and the rivers and streams that drain into it. But Christie and the Ocean County freeholders seem reluctant to confront this reality. They seem to believe that half-hearted efforts and wishful thinking will hold back the deleterious effects of unbridled development.
3. The state Department of Environmental Protection and scientists are fighting over whether new water quality standards accurately measure water quality in the bay. Rutgers’ scientists have reported that poor water quality seems to be spreading into central and southern areas of the bay. Environmental activists want the government to declare the entire bay impaired (polluted or damaged) under the federal Clean Water Act. DEP officials have said they won’t decide whether to do so until they finish scientific studies that began in 2012. The results of three years of research will be discussed later this year, raising the questions, “What has the research found?” and “What are officials going to do about it?”
For the sake of New Jersey’s small slice of the Earth, we hope they will act not only on the science — and on the high-sounding rhetoric Christie promised three years ago — but on what common sense tells anyone who has used the bay in recent years recognizes: that the bay is deteriorating and strong measures are needed to save it before it’s too late.