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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 25, 2003

Contact: Fred Mumford
(609) 984-1795

Corson's Inlet Oil Spill Prevention Plan Tested

(03/134) CORSON'S INLET STATE PARK -- The state of New Jersey, along with federal and local officials, tested an emergency response plan today to protect back bay coastal areas near Corson's Inlet in Cape May County from a major oil spill.

"New Jersey is prepared to safeguard our precious coastal environment from the threat of oil spills in the Atlantic Ocean," said Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell. "These back bays 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."

DEP and the State Police are working in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard, Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and local emergency management coordinators to protect this invaluable natural resource.

The oil spill prevention plan is part of an overall strategy developed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for the state's 13 coastal inlets. DEP deployed more than 4,000 feet of oil-blocking booms based on computerized Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping. Rice hulls were used to simulate the flow of oil. The drill will be evaluated to determine the effectiveness of the booms to capture the oil considering the currents.

"The wildlife management area behind Corson's Inlet provides 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.

Corson's Inlet is the gateway to the Cape May Marmora Wildlife Management Area that contains ecologically sensitive tidal salt meadows and marshes, interspersed with shallow coves and bays. 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 sixth 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, Cape May and Absecon inlets. Future tests are planned for inlets at Beach Haven, Brigantine, Hereford, Little Egg, Manasquan, Sea Girt and Townsend's

The state's inlet protection effort was developed after 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. Injuries to the state's coastal environment occurred when tar balls formed and washed ashore along the New Jersey coast from Cape May to as far north as Holgate. The largest concentration of tar balls 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.

 

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