STATE OF THE SHORE EVENT KICKS OFF SEASON WITH OVERVIEWS OF
WATER QUALITY, PUBLIC ACCESS, RESILIENCE AND SWIMMING SAFETY
(19/P042) TRENTON – The state is working hard to ensure a safe and enjoyable season at the Jersey shore, backbone of New Jersey’s nearly $45 billion tourism economy, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe said today during the annual State of the Shore event in Asbury Park.
During the event sponsored by the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium, Commissioner McCabe provided overviews of water quality monitoring, beaches, newly enacted legislation guaranteeing public access to the ocean and waterways, and efforts to make the state more resilient to sea-level rise. The consortium also unveiled a new bilingual rip-current public education safety campaign.
“Each one of us takes great pride in the Jersey shore, which is so integral to our identity as a state,” Commissioner McCabe said. “Governor Murphy and I are committed to ensuring that residents and visitors have a safe and enjoyable time this season.”
The consortium holds the event prior to the start of the Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of the beach season, to provide updates on important coastal issues.
During the event, Commissioner McCabe said the DEP is developing regulations implementing a recently enacted law guaranteeing the public’s right to access beaches and waterfronts. The law codifies the Public Trust Doctrine right of the public to enjoy these resources.
“The ocean, the beaches, our abundant coastal waterways, and our rivers are resources that must be shared equally by all people,” Commissioner McCabe said. “The work that we do to craft regulations to implement this landmark law is critical to future generations. No one should ever feel as though they cannot enjoy these treasures fully.”
Commissioner McCabe also affirmed the DEP’s commitment to using the latest science to develop strong policies and strategies to adapt coastal and river areas to sea-level rise resulting from climate change.
“Mitigating the impacts of climate change is one of the most pressing issues New Jersey faces,” Commissioner McCabe said. “We are working hard at all levels of government and with all of our stakeholders in both coastal and inland areas on solutions that make sense and are based on the best scientific data available.”
Going into the holiday weekend, Commissioner McCabe noted that beaches are in great shape and that water quality is excellent.
Storm erosion during the past fall and winter was minimal, she said. In addition, she noted that the Army Corps of Engineers, in partnership with the DEP, is close to wrapping up a $129-million beach and dune construction project for northern Ocean County, one of the areas of the state hit hardest by Superstorm Sandy in October 2012.
In addition, the state’s Cooperative Coastal Monitoring Program is at work safeguarding water quality and public health, Commissioner McCabe said. The DEP coordinates this state and local partnership that tests water quality at 188 ocean beaches, 20 bay beaches and eight river beaches across the state throughout the season.
Closures at New Jersey’s beaches are rare and when they do occur they are typically related to rainy weather and stormwater runoff. During the 2018 season, 3,358 samples were taken from ocean beaches. Nearly 98 percent of the samples met the state’s recreational bathing standard.
In all, 63 ocean advisories were issued and there were only four ocean beach closures due to exceedances of the state’s bacteria standard, two in Monmouth County and two in Ocean County. These closings occurred Aug. 15, following heavy rainfall.
Visitors can get up-to-date information on all water sampling and any incidents by visiting www.njbeaches.org. The public can use this website to get beach status information, reports and fact sheets.
During the event, the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium emphasized the importance of swimming safety and rip current awareness, stressing that people swim only at lifeguarded beaches and learn how to escape a rip current if caught in one.
Rip currents are strong, generally narrow currents that flow outward from beaches, and can pull even the strongest swimmers away from shore.
“More than 80 percent of surf-related ocean rescues are attributed to rip currents,” said consortium coastal ecosystem extension agent Dr. Amy Williams. “It is critical that swimmers not panic if caught in one and that they swim parallel to the shoreline until they are no longer in its grasp. At that point, they should be able to swim safely back to shore.”
For nearly 20 years, the consortium – made up of academic institutions and other organizations dedicated to coastal research and protection – has conducted a Rip Current Awareness campaign, which includes producing and distributing thousands of signs that warn swimmers about the dangers of rip currents and illustrate what to do if caught in one. The signs are posted at high-traffic beach access and bathing points in essentially every shore community.
The consortium is making the signs as well as rip current awareness brochures and handouts available upon request to municipalities in English and Spanish, free of charge, for distribution at beaches, municipal properties and other locations.
For more information on rip current safety or to get signs and brochures, click on the graphic above or go to http://njseagrant.org/ripcurrents/
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