INLET OIL SPILL PREVENTION PLAN TESTED,
PIPING PLOVER AND SHOREBIRD PROTECTION EFFORT
ALTANTIC CITY -- The state of New Jersey,
along with federal and local officials,
tested an emergency response plan today
to protect back bay coastal areas near Absecon
Inlet from a major oil spill. The state
also announced a five-year protection effort
for the endangered piping plover and other
shorebirds with $1.5 million from an oil
spill compensation settlement.
"Working in partnership
with the U.S. Coast Guard, Fish and Wildlife
Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration and local emergency management
coordinators, New Jersey is prepared to
respond to secure our precious coastal environment
from the threat of oil spills," said
Governor James E. McGreevey. "The State
Police and the Department of Environmental
Protection are working aggressively to ensure
the safety of this invaluable natural resource."
The oil spill prevention
plan is part of an overall strategy developed
by New Jersey's Department of Environmental
Protection (DEP) for the state's 13 coastal
inlets. DEP deployed 3,000 feet of oil-blocking
booms based on plans developed using computerized
Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping.
Rice hulls were used to simulate the flow
of oil. The results of the drill will be
reviewed to determine if the booms were
in the best positions to capture the oil
taking into consideration the condition
of the currents.
"The wildlife management
areas behind the Absecon Inlet provide important
resting and feeding habitat for tens of
thousands of ducks, geese, wading birds,
and shorebirds during spring and fall migrations,"
said DEP Commissioner Campbell. "These
backbays need protection because they are
located in one of the Atlantic Flyway's
most active flight paths making them an
important link in the vast network of state
and federal wildlife management areas and
refuges throughout the country."
Absecon Inlet is the gateway
to the Absecon Wildlife Management Area,
the Brigantine unit of the Edwin B. Forsythe
National Wildlife Refuge, and the Jacques
Cousteau National Estuarine Research Preserve.
Ecologically sensitive tidal salt meadows
and marshes, interspersed with shallow coves
and bays dominate the area. More than one-third
of the flyway's Atlantic brant population
winter in the area. The area also is important
for its breeding populations of osprey,
American oystercatcher, least tern, black
skimmer and peregrine falcon; is a popular
fishing ground for summer and winter flounder
and a productive shellfishery.
Today's test is the fifth
booming drill. The first test of the inlet
emergency response plans was conducted in
1997 at the Great Egg Harbor Inlet in Longport
with subsequent tests held at the Barnegat,
Shark River and Cape May inlets. Future
tests are planned for inlets at Beach Haven,
Brigantine, Corson's, Hereford, Little Egg,
Manasquan, Sea Girt and Townsend's.
DEP Commissioner Campbell
also announced a $1.5 million natural resource
damage settlement to compensate the state
of New Jersey for injuries to the state's
coastal environment when the 846-foot long
Bahamian-flagged Anitra spilled 42,000 gallons
of Nigerian light crude oil into the Delaware
Bay during a May 1996 storm. Tarballs formed
and washed ashore along the New Jersey coast
from Cape May to as far north as Holgate.
The largest concentration of tarballs washed
up on beaches in Cape May and southern Atlantic
County where migrating shore birds feed
and the federally endangered piping plover
nests. The Anitra spill went through both
the Hereford and Townsend inlets.
"DEP serves as the
trustee of New Jersey's natural resources,"
said Commissioner Campbell. "This settlement
reflects the fact that DEP takes that responsibility
The settlement funds will
be used for a five-year effort to help restore
piping plover populations. Management practices
will be instituted to reduce human disturbances
and enhance nesting success on breeding
beaches. Restoration work also will include
clearing beaches of debris that prevent
shorebird feeding, including sanderlings
and red knots. The Department will work
closely with municipal officials as part
of the overall effort.
The settlement agreement
is being formally prepared by the U.S. Department
of Interior for all parties to sign in early
2003. A Memorandum of Agreement also is
being drafted outlining the five-year protection
effort. The Department uses monies from
natural resource damage settlements for
restoration projects and land purchases
in the same watershed or general area of
where the damage occurred.