DEP SPEARHEADS BARNEGAT BAY CLEANUP WEDNESDAY; LOCAL GROUPS JOIN IN GOVERNOR CHRISTIE'S ACTION PLAN TO RESTORE BARNEGAT BAY
(11/P126) TRENTON - The Department of Environmental Protection this Wednesday will be joined by volunteers from dozens of local groups - including students, senior citizens, environmentalists, business and local government leaders, and even military personnel from Fort Dix - in a massive day-long trash and debris cleanup for the Barnegat Bay watershed.
The Barnegat Bay Blitz, a watershed-wide cleanup organized by the DEP and the nonprofit New Jersey Clean Communities Council, is expected to include many hundreds of people representing all 37 municipalities within the bay's 660-square-mile watershed. Thirty-three of the municipalities are in Ocean County, and four are in Monmouth County.
This hands-on effort demonstrates the Christie Administration's continued commitment to restoring Barnegat Bay, which for decades has been subject to increasing ecological stress, much of it related to stormwater pollution. The cleanup will enable local residents and groups to become directly engaged in the Governor's 10-point comprehensive restoration plan for the bay, which the Governor launched in December 2010.
"The Governor and I are committed to the restoration of Barnegat Bay, a unique ecological treasure and an invaluable asset to our tourism economy," said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin, who will personally join DEP staff and volunteers in picking up trash from locations around the bay. "One of the main goals of this week's cleanup blitz is to provide an opportunity to those who live in the watershed and care about the future of the bay to roll up their sleeves and become directly involved, at the same time inspiring others to take action to protect the bay."
The cleanup blitz fits in with Action Item No. 8 in the Governor's Comprehensive Plan, which calls for increased education efforts to foster public stewardship for the Bay. Other efforts under way as a result of the 10-point plan include the safe closure of the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant by 2019, enhanced state funding for local governments for projects to better control stormwater pollution, a tough statewide fertilizer law that benefits the bay by reducing nutrients in stormwater runoff, a detailed scientific study of water issues in the bay, and a first-ever Barnegat Bay-wide water quality monitoring network, which the DEP recently launched.
"Restoration of Barnegat Bay will take years of sustained work and a great deal of commitment from many people,'' Commissioner Martin said. "With efforts such as this grass roots cleanup, as well as the other initiatives detailed in the Governor's comprehensive plan, we are off to a very strong start.''
The event, which will run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., targets a wide variety of locations for cleanup, including wetlands, stream banks, stormwater discharge points, school grounds, trails, docks, areas around bulkheads, and the bay itself. The cleanup will be held rain or shine.
The Commissioner will be joined by all members of his senior management team as well as other DEP employees, many of whom will serve as team captains.
The Commissioner will kick off the day at 8 a.m. in Stafford Township, where he will participate in a cleanup with students from the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science (MATES) of the Ocean County Vocational School District. Other stops for Commissioner Martin include a 10 a.m. visit to Lacey Township to join Lacey High School students working on local trails improvement effort, and a 12:30 p.m. stop in Bay Head Borough, to pitch in on a cleanup effort with students and local residents.
The Barnegat Bay Blitz will be marked by a ceremony at Ocean County Community College in Toms River at about 3 p.m.
(MEDIA: The DEP Press office will issue a detailed itinerary on Tuesday).
Much of the trash that will be collected on Wednesday could otherwise 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 Barnegat Bay and its tributaries. The trash that volunteers collect will be turned over to local public works departments for proper disposal.
Groups expected to participate include local elementary, middle, and high schools, the ReClam the Bay environmental group, AmeriCorps Watershed Ambassadors, the Jersey Shore Sea Kayak Association, staff and students from Jenkinson's Aquarium, and senior citizens from Harvey Cedars.
Kayakers from the Jersey Shore Sea Kayak Association, volunteers from ReClam the Bay, and employees of the DEP's Division of Fish and Wildlife, will clean up areas around the Sedge Islands Marine Conservation Zone. Fort Dix crews will help out in various locations, including Manchester, Lakehurst and Brendan Byrne State Park. A llama will help local residents cart away trash collected in and around the Colliers Mill Wildlife Management Area.
Some 600 students at the Beachwood Elementary School will take part in the cleanup during recess Wednesday.
"The kids love to help out and they do get upset when they see litter on the playground or in the school yard,'' said Principal Jim Ricotta. "Our school just celebrated Respect Week, and now we're focusing on respecting the environment. Our teachers are giving lessons on controlling pollution and runoff, which is a big problem in our area. The kids enjoy learning about Barnegat Bay and getting involved. We're happy to participate.''
The idea of a cleanup blitz grew out of expressions of interest from local groups and DEP staff who wanted to help implement the Governor's Barnegat Bay comprehensive action plan.
"There is truly a great deal of untapped potential out there, people who are ready, willing and able to pitch in and help out,'' said Lynette Lurig, a DEP research scientist who is organizing the cleanup.
"Whether you live on Long Beach Island, near the Garden State Parkway, or in the Pinelands further inland, there are lots of things you can do on a personal level to restore the bay,'' said Katie Barnett, a DEP environmental specialist who is also organizing the event. "Cleaning up litter is just one of them."
DEP partners in the cleanup include the New Jersey Clean Communities Council, MATES Academy, the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust, Waste Management, the Barnegat Bay Partnership, and ReClam the Bay.
For more information on the cleanup blitz, the Governor's comprehensive plan and how you can help protect the bay, visit: http://www.nj.gov/dep/barnegatbay/bbblitz.htm