Stinging Jellyfish, Dead Bunker Fish, Dangerous Oysters: NJ Coast Under Stress

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBCNewYork.com
    From oysters ordered out of the polluted waters of Raritan Bay, to an explosion of stinging jellyfish in Barnegat Bay, to a die-off of millions of bunker fish in Delaware Bay, this has been a bad week for the coastal waters of New Jersey.

    From oysters ordered out of the polluted waters of Raritan Bay, to an explosion of stinging jellyfish in Barnegat Bay, to a die-off of millions of bunker fish in Delaware Bay, this has been a bad week for the coastal waters of New Jersey.

    But four bills passed at an extraordinary joint hearing of the Senate and Assembly Environment Committees may help turn those conditions around.

    Push to Save Coastal Waters of the Jersey Shore

    [NY] Push to Save Coastal Waters of the Jersey Shore
    Dead fish in Delaware Bay and stinging jellyfish in Barnegat Bay may trigger changes. Brian Thompson reports on the effort to save the coastal waters of the Jersey Shore. (Published Thursday, Aug 12, 2010)

    It may be too late, however for Courtney Sterling, 25 of Toms River and her 4-year-old son Derek.

    "I will never come back here, ever," Sterling said, standing on the sands of the town's Shelter Cove Beach.

    Sterling was talking about her experience a few days earlier when, along with a friend, they encountered a heavy infestation of the stinging jellyfish and she demanded a refund on her $5 beach badge.

    The jellyfish, also called sea nettles, weren't around when Sterling was a young girl.

    But the increased runoff of fertilizers, partially treated sewage and storm water has, according to scientists, turned Barnegat Bay into a breeding ground for the jellyfish at the expense of a now-gone commercial shellfish industry.

    That same runoff is affecting Delaware Bay, where the NJ DEP has tentatively blamed low oxygen levels for one of the worst fish kills ever there.

    And that same runoff has long made the waters of Raritan Bay, in New York Harbor, a restricted zone, prompting the DEP to finally pull the plug on experimental research to grow oysters there.

    While the legislation singles out saving Barnegat Bay, parts of it may help other coastal waters, according to environmentalists.

    For example, phosphorous would be banned from all lawn fertilizers sold in the state and 30% of all nitrogen in the fertilizer would have to be time-released, according to Jeff Tittel of the Sierra Club.

    Both phosphorous and nitrogen tend to run off lawns in rain storms, make their way into waterways and encourage the growth of algae-type plants. When they grow and die(the proverbial 'algae bloom'), they exhaust the oxygen in the water that fish need to live, and smother beneficial plants like eel grass.

    "What we've created is New Jersey's largest storm water detention basin, all the runoff and all the pollution from all the development around the bay is killing the bay," said Jeff Tittel of the Sierra Club.

    But two bills that deal with just Ocean County and the creation of a Stormwater Utility Authority drew the opposition of the county Freeholders.

    People "don't want to pay any more taxes," said Freeholder John Bartlett, who challenged legislators to deal with stormwater issues on a statewide basis, and come up with the money the same way.

    The other bill deals with the soil that gets compacted with new development. It tends to accelerate runoff of pollutants such as fertilizers.

    The bill would require restoration of soils from their construction-compacted state.

    They all have bipartisan support but Governor Chris Christie has yet to say if he would sign them if they pass the Legislature.

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