Barnegat Bay Partnership Seeks Comment on New Plan

Revising 2002 Watershed Management
By Pat Johnson | Jul 28, 2019
Photo by: Pat Johnson AIM TO PROTECT: The Barnegat Bay watershed also includes Little Egg Harbor (above) and Manahawkin Bay.

Surf City — The Barnegat Bay Partnership is finalizing its Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan by soliciting comments from citizens and stakeholders. Comments will be accepted through Aug. 31, and may be submitted using an online form available at barnegatbaypartnership.org and then emailing to CCMP@ocean.edu.

The last in-person comment session, titled “Your Bay, Your Say,” is Aug. 19, 3:30 to 5 p.m. at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences, 120 Long Beach Blvd., Loveladies. A scientist from the BBP will be on hand to answer questions. Stop in any time, enjoy displays and light refreshments, and learn more about the plan for the bay.

Here are selections gleaned from the executive summary of the draft at barnegatbaypartnership.org.

The 2019 Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan was developed by the Barnegat Bay Partnership, established as one of the nation’s 28 National Estuary Programs in accordance with the Clean Water Act. The BBP works collaboratively with its partners to protect the Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor estuary and its contributing watershed. This 2019 CCMP represents a revision of the BBP’s original CCMP, completed in 2002, when the program was formally approved and accepted by the (U.S.) Environmental Protection Agency.

The BBP is a non-regulatory program, which works by developing and implementing the CCMP, or the “master plan,” identified by its management conference partners, which includes municipal, county, state and federal government agencies; academic institutions; and private, corporate, and non-governmental stakeholders.

As stated in the Clean Water Act, one primary purpose of the conference is to develop a CCMP that identifies priority corrective actions and timelines addressing point and nonpoint sources of pollution to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the estuary.

These actions include the restoration and maintenance of water quality; balancing indigenous populations of shellfishes, (fin) fishes and wildlife with recreational activities in the estuary; and assuring that the designated uses of the estuary are protected. The plan contains a number of technical elements (such as research, monitoring and assessment), and equally important communication and education activities.

The top issues of concern, in random order, are: (1) reducing sources of nonpoint source pollution, especially nutrients from fertilizers; (2) restricting future development and preserving more open space; (3) addressing blooms of nuisance bay nettle (jellyfish) spreading throughout the bay; (4) protecting wetlands, eelgrass and shellfish beds, and other characteristic bay habitats; (5) increasing water conservation efforts, especially by seasonal residents; (6) addressing the issue of flooding and more frequent storms; and (7) educating children and adults about the Barnegat Bay watershed.

The growing human population in the watershed and its accompanying development still represent a major challenge to the entire estuarine ecosystem. Moreover, eutrophication due to excessive nutrient loadings (primarily nitrogen) from human activities remains one of the biggest problems within the bay. However, the BBP’s vision and other components of the CCMP have been revised to reflect the growing realization of recognized climate change factors (e.g., more frequent and larger storms, sea level rise, coastal acidification) and uncertainties regarding rates of change of those factors, all of which affect the bay’s water quality, water supplies, habitats, living resources, and human uses of the ecosystem.

The 2002 CCMP did not include the phrases/words climate change, sea level rise or jellyfish. Most 2002 priority areas such as water quality, water supply, habitats and living resources remain, and a new priority – land use – was added. This CCMP identifies specific goals, objectives and actions within each priority area.

The revised CCMP reflects significant improvements in the BBP’s understanding of the bay ecology and the efforts needed to protect and restore its water quality and supplies, habitats and biotic resources. It builds upon outreach and actions initiated in Barnegat Bay that eventually were implemented to protect water quality, habitats and living resources throughout the state.

— Pat Johnson

patjohnson@thesandpaper.net

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