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RELEASE: 10/15/01

CONTACT: Loretta O'Donnell or Amy Collings
(609) 984-1795 or 609-292-2994

5,425 Acres to be upgraded in Raritan Bay

State Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Shinn today announced that 7,754 additional acres of state waters soon will be open for shellfish harvesting, marking the 14th consecutive year that continuing improvement in water quality has allowed expansion of areas where shellfish may be safely taken.

"The continued expansion of our shellfish harvesting waters is a clear and reliable yardstick of our progress in improving water quality. These openings are the result of combined efforts to upgrade wastewater treatment plant operations and reduce nonpoint source pollution," Shinn said during a ceremony at the Leonardo State Marina on the Raritan Bay.

The proposed reclassification will bring the total acreage available for shellfishing to 599,505, or 89 percent of the state's coastal waters, Shinn noted.

The areas to be upgraded are: 5,425 acres from prohibited to special restricted in Raritan Bay including 4,441 acres in the Flynn's Knoll section off of Sandy Hook and 984 acres in the bay near Union Beach. Special restricted means permits for depuration are required. In addition, 1,878 acres upgraded from prohibited to approved in the Atlantic Ocean off of Mantoloking (Ocean County); 360 acres from seasonal to approved in Risley Channel off of Margate (Atlantic County), and 91 acres upgraded from special restricted to seasonal in Lakes Bay near Margate. The seasonal classification allows harvesting yearly from November through April.

"New Jersey is the only state in the 24-state Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference that has consistently had more waters upgraded than downgraded each year for the past 14 years," Shinn said. "The continued upgrade is particularly remarkable considering that population growth has been steady in the state's coastal counties during this time."

New Jersey harvests the most shellfish of any state, more than 75 million pounds each year.

Each year, DEP's Bureau of Marine Water Monitoring collects and analyzes over 19,000 water samples. Staff also regularly perform field surveys of the coastal shoreline to monitor any pollution sources.

The Interstate Environmental Commission and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Region 2 Office, under New Jersey' s Performance Partnership Agreement, also assisted in the collection and analysis of water and shellfish tissue for this upgrade.

Other ongoing clean water initiatives include the watershed management program, which works with local organizations, to establish regional plans to control nonpoint source pollution, such as runoff from development and agriculture, by. DEP also is working with municipalities and the Environmental Infrastructure Trust to replace combined sewers in older towns and reduce stormwater overflows.

Fifty-five acres east of Mystic Island are being downgraded from Approved to Seasonal in two small waterways leading to Great Bay due to a requirement for buffers around marinas.

Adjacent to the 1,878 acres in the ocean off of Mantoloking that are being upgraded to approved, 20 acres are being closed to better define and manage the closure zone around the Northern Ocean County Municipal Utilities Authority plant using GPS coordinates. The larger harvesting area is due to the treatment plant's improved operating efficiency and reliability.

DEP is accepting public comment on the proposed reclassification, which was published in today's NJ Register. The public comment period closes Nov. 14 and the proposal is scheduled to take effect Jan. 7, 2002.

Maps showing the reclassified areas may be viewed on the Bureau of Marine Monitoring's web page at:



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Last Updated: October 22, 2001