The Blog Aquatic » new jersey News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Senator Lautenberg: A Hero for Our Ocean Mon, 03 Jun 2013 16:15:11 +0000 Janis Searles Jones

Ocean Conservancy expresses condolences to the family and friends of Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) for their loss at his passing.  Senator Lautenberg was a tireless protector of not just New Jersey, but all of our waters and coastlines.  He was a true environmental champion who will be sorely missed by all those who care about our ocean.  During his long career, he built an incredible legacy of conservation.  Here are just few key highlights:

  • He introduced and passed the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act so that the government could be begin coordinating research on the changing chemistry of the ocean.
  • He successfully fought to improve water quality and curb ocean dumping of sewage and plastics.
  • He wrote and passed the BEACH Act, a law to improve water quality monitoring standards and make sure the public is informed about the safety of their beaches.
  • He was a strong advocate for action to reduce pollution and tackle climate change, pushing for a clean energy future, reducing carbon pollution and promoting renewable energy.
  • He was a tireless advocate for the prevention of oil spills, and was part of congressional efforts to put in place tighter regulations, and to get companies to use stronger “double-hulled tankers” to prevent oil spills. He worked to prevent offshore oil drilling along the Atlantic coast.
  • As the Chairman of the Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over the regulation of toxic chemicals, Senator Lautenberg  held hearings and introduced legislation to put the burden on chemical companies to provide data to the EPA so that Americans can be assured the chemicals they are exposed to are safe. He was a champion for the public’s right to know more about the pollution being released into their neighborhoods and created the Toxic Release Inventory.
  • He introduced and passed the Coastal and Estuarine Land Protection Act to awards grants to states with approved coastal management programs to protect environmentally sensitive lands.

Senator Lautenberg stands on the Asbury Park Boardwalk with Rep. Frank Pallone and others to call for full funding for BEACH Act grants and push new federal legislation that would strengthen existing water quality protection programs.(August 23, 2012)


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Offshore Wind Moving Closer to Providing Renewable Energy to the East Coast Fri, 25 Jan 2013 19:40:31 +0000 Anna Zivian

Credit: Wind Turbines by Shutterstock/Dennis van de Water

2013 may be a very windy year. All along the Atlantic Coast, offshore renewable power has been getting a boost. In states from North Carolina to Maine, growing support for wind energy has led to practical steps that will get this industry moving.

In North Carolina, Governor McCrory has announced his support for offshore renewable wind development, saying it would help grow North Carolina’s economy and provide jobs. On Tuesday, in Annapolis, Maryland, Governor O’Malley rolled out a bill to create incentives for offshore renewable energy. In Rhode Island and Massachusetts, wind projects are under construction. In Maine, the Public Utilities Commission voted 2-1 on Thursday to approve the terms for Statoil, a Norwegian state energy company, to move forward with a $120 floating wind turbine test project, clearing the biggest step in making the proposal a reality. All along the East Coast, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is moving forward with a public planning to help site offshore wind farms, making sure to consider other ocean users and environmental concerns in the process.

Finally, to help tie it all together, in New Jersey, Atlantic Wind Connection announced that it will be moving forward with plans for the first part of its offshore transmission line that will help connect offshore wind farms to the grid to provide energy to homes and businesses in New Jersey. Construction of the 189-mile segment (of what will eventually be a 350-mile line) is scheduled to be completed by 2015. Even before the line delivers wind energy, it will help (off)shore up the transmission infrastructure.

As we saw from Hurricane Sandy, storms can wreak havoc on the energy distribution system, knocking down power lines and causing hundreds of thousands of people to lose electricity. Having a line offshore and undersea means that at least part of the energy grid will be less vulnerable to the hurricanes and strong storms that are growing more frequent.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management made a finding of no competitive interest and approved AWC to move forward with its permitting process in 2011. The public process for approval allows stakeholders, the public and state and federal agencies to review where and how the line will be sited, what impacts construction of the line could cause, and whether there might be any conflicts created by building the line. This smart planning also lets AWC coordinate with other users to figure out the best routes for the line so that it can link up easily to future offshore wind farms as well as to existing onshore infrastructure.

As Atlantic Wind Connection President Markian Melnyk said about ocean planning at a regional meeting in New England, “”What it means for us is greater predictability, lower risk, lower cost. In our view, when you can identify the right places to do ocean energy, you can do everything better — you can do conservation better and can do energy development better. It doesn’t have to be a fight over siting; this type of collaborative siting work helps makes it more about science and more about sound economics than about fighting.”

With the help of collaboration, coordination and smart planning, renewable energy and better infrastructure may soon become a reality on the East Coast.

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Sandy Relief Left Stranded by the House of Representatives Wed, 02 Jan 2013 19:40:20 +0000 Jeff Watters

New York Air National Guard responds to Hurricane Sandy. From the DVIDSHUB Flickr stream, used under a Creative Commons license.

UPDATE (01/03): After facing intense pressure, Boehner has agreed to schedule a vote for Sandy aid. Read more here.

These days nothing gets through Congress easily, even when the need is so great. We can expect some in Congress to resist releasing funds to rebuild the East Coast stronger than before, but they should be reminded that protecting our communities is the core function of our government.  Now is the chance to use our resources in ways that will allow us to grow and thrive for generations to come.

This is how I ended a blog post written nearly three weeks ago analyzing a Senate bill that would funnel $60 billion in relief to the states affected by Superstorm Sandy. This was legislation that would provide funding for coastal restoration and other activities to prevent and mitigate damage from future storms like Sandy.

The bill would provide funding for things like:

  • Hydrographic surveys and Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) imaging to remap our shorelines and identify risks and coastal vulnerabilities
  • Coordinated planning and strategy at the community, state, and regional level that shares best practices and determine the best mix of “grey” (i.e. sea walls) and “natural” (i.e. wetlands) infrastructure so that rebuilding efforts also better prepare communities for future challenges
  • Habitat restoration and coastal land conservation to support healthy ecosystems while also providing buffers and protect communities from future extreme weather.

As I noted then, funding storm mitigation is a good investment, as Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funded research has shown that each $1 invested in mitigation provides the nation $4 in future benefits.

While the Senate was able to pass the Sandy relief bill, even while embroiled in negotiations over the fiscal cliff, the House failed to even take up the measure before the close of this Congress, despite assurances from leadership that it would consider the bill.

Because this failure comes at the end of the current Congress, lawmakers won’t simply be able to pick up where they left off and finish the bill. No, a new Congress means new members, which means new bills must be drafted, and a new round of delays for the victims of Hurricane Sandy will be incurred.

This failure in the House of Representatives has rightly incensed the congressional delegations from New York and New Jersey and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R). So much so, that Rep. Peter King, R-NY, has called on New York and New Jersey donors to withhold donations to House Republicans – King’s own party – until the Sandy bill is passed.

For our part, pushing this vital legislation will be at the top of Ocean Conservancy’s legislative priorities as we welcome the 113th Congress.

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Generations Connected to the Sea, Washed Away by Sandy Mon, 19 Nov 2012 21:06:47 +0000 Guest Blogger

Aerial photo of Mantoloking, New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy. Photo credit: Greg Thompson/USFWS. Used under a Creative Commons license.

This is a guest post from Pam Weiant. Pam is a marine scientist with Ph.D. from UC Santa Barbara. She is founder of a Strategic Environmental Planning (StEP), a consulting company that focuses on natural resource planning and management, and works as a watershed specialist for Malama Maunalua, a community non-profit organization in Hawaii. Previously, she advised the marine program of The Nature Conservancy in Hawaii.

The sea soaked and the winds pounded our family home on the Jersey Shore for hours and hours on October 29, just as numerous hurricanes and Nor’easter storms had for decades. But Hurricane Sandy was different. At some point, under the cloak of darkness that night, Sandy’s punishing power brought our house down.

The neighbors’ homes on both sides of ours in Mantoloking are scarred but still standing. Where our house once stood and hosted five generations of our family, there is now only sand and debris. Everything is gone, including the giant antique stove where my grandmother used to prepare the catch of the day.

The house in Mantoloking was a constant part of my childhood, and I’m still finding it hard to believe we won’t be returning. The town, about one-mile long and four blocks wide, is situated on a barrier island with the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Barnegat Bay to the west.

I attribute my decision to become a marine scientist to my childhood years spent in Mantoloking. Through my work, I have spent time studying in many coastal areas such as the Gulf of California, Coral Sea, Southeastern Atlantic Ocean, Eastern Pacific Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean.  Yet, in my mind, no place compares with the Jersey Shore.

It was a welcome respite from the “real” world of the city, offering time to reconnect with cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Feet and bikes were the main mode of transportation, and entertainment came in the form of crabbing in Barnegat Bay, trips to Meullers bakery and swimming in the ocean. And many years later, it’s brought me such joy to share the house with my own children — now 8 and 5 — whose smiles are never bigger than upon arrival at “The Aquarium,” our nickname for the home.

Even with the house gone, I feel that the sea and the shore are deeply a part of me. Perhaps it is the expansive beaches that are unobstructed for miles, or the perfect sand that is not too fine and not too coarse, or the glow of the light at sunrise and sunset, or the miles and miles of Atlantic Ocean.  Every day the ocean is different: One day, low tides with a huge sandbar ideal for body surfing; another day, rough waters excellent for drifting with the current; or, perfect conditions with gentle, rolling waves.  Every day brought new surprises: Whales breaching, pods of dolphins, schools of skates, runs of fish, and mysterious fins.

With the exception of new windows and a fresh coat of paint, our house remained pretty much the same as when my great-grandfather bought it decades ago.  As such, it was full of memorabilia from a previous era. My grandfather’s taxidermied collection of prize fish decorated the walls on the first floor, and prints of fishermen and shore birds lined the upstairs hall and bedroom walls, all a testament to a time when larger fish could be caught from our ocean.

The house’s lifetime witnessed other changes. Parts of Barnegat Bay were dredged and filled or armored for houses, and East Avenue became developed with more and bigger houses, leaving less open space and less natural habitat. Mantoloking did its best to keep the natural charm of high dunes and seagrass as the main strategy to protect the houses. But this was too much of a storm.

As scientists learn more about how climate change may have made Hurricane Sandy’s impacts worse, I hope we will take heed of the advice they offer to minimize the chance that a storm of this magnitude will wreak havoc like this again. I hope officials up and down the coast will plan for better coastal protection together, so there can be a coordinated effort to strengthen our coast’s natural defenses to protect natural resources and livelihoods.

It is tragic what has been lost. My heart goes out to the other victims of the storm who have experienced even greater losses.

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In the Wake of Sandy, Thinking About the Future Wed, 31 Oct 2012 16:49:51 +0000 Janis Searles Jones

Credit: AP Photos / Alex Brandon

Like many of you, many of Ocean Conservancy’s staff have lived through hurricanes and other natural disasters. We know how much damage hurricanes can cause, and our hearts go out to those of you affected by Hurricane Sandy.

For our staff working along the Gulf of Mexico, June through November is a time to remember how to “live with the water,” as Bethany Kraft, our director of Gulf Restoration put it at the start of this year’s hurricane season. When Hurricane Isaac hit last month, Gulf residents experienced hard winds, massive flooding and oiled shorelines that reminded us that we are still in the grips of responding to and recovering from the BP oil disaster.

Hurricane Sandy, which pounded the East Coast on Monday, was a wholly different storm. Our immediate concerns are always with those in the path of such devastating storms, especially those on the New Jersey coast and New York where the damage was especially acute. We send our gratitude to NOAA for the warnings and the time to prepare and to the first responders, who are not only saving lives but are leading communities’ recovery efforts.

As we shift from rescue to recovery, we are confronting a cleanup and rebuilding effort with an extraordinary price tag and an unforeseeable timeline. And while we can’t control such a massive storm, we can help strengthen our nation’s best defense against this force of nature.

Coastal and marine habitats such as barrier islands, beaches, oyster reefs and sea-grass beds can help buffer shorelines and protect coastal communities from wind and rising water. But when these natural sentries are weakened by climate change, development, pollution, overfishing and other human impacts, our communities are at even greater risk when disaster approaches.

With this in mind, we must ask:

  • How can we step in to help coastal areas affected by the storm?
  • What can we do to ensure that our coastal areas are ready and resilient, so they can better handle extreme weather events?

While any one storm — particularly one this complex — can’t be solely blamed on climate change, we know we can expect a greater frequency of stronger storms like this one. In addition to addressing climate change, we need to increase funding for restoration of our coastlines’ natural defenses.

In the Gulf of Mexico, we already know that restored wetlands and oyster beds can help sap the energy of an incoming hurricane and protect the shoreline from storm surge.

As Paul Greenberg, author of “Four Fish,” notes in The New York Times this week, oyster beds “once protected New Yorkers from storm surges, a bivalve population that numbered in the trillions and that played a critical role in stabilizing the shoreline from Washington to Boston.” While a small recovery of that population is underway, it could not have protected New Yorkers from the incredible strength of Sandy.

Going forward, we must focus attention on solutions for better protection of our increasingly vulnerable coastlines, from ongoing research and monitoring to smart, integrated planning in the coastal zone.

For now, our thoughts are with those recovering from Sandy, but as restoration gets underway in the coming weeks and months, Ocean Conservancy will be a leading voice in the call for comprehensive planning efforts to shore up our natural defenses before the next storm.

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News Roundup: What Can We Learn From Hurricane Sandy? Tue, 30 Oct 2012 19:04:25 +0000 Guest Blogger

Hurricane Sandy as viewed on October 29, Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those affected by Sandy this morning, especially those on the New Jersey coast and New York where the damage was particularly acute.

Sandy, which packed 90 mile-per-hour winds and dumped 12 inches of rain and snow across states ranging from New Jersey to Kentucky, was declared to be something other than a hurricane. It was, forecasters said, a post-tropical storm that combined with other weather systems to stretch 1,000 miles wide and create storm surges up to 11 feet.

As we catch up on our work and get back up to speed, here are some takes on Sandy from around the web that we’re finding particularly insightful. If you have stories to share, please leave them in the comments below:

An Oyster in the Storm, The New York Times. As the storm came ashore yesterday in New Jersey, Four Fish author Paul Greenberg reminded us that nature can be a strong defense against major storms. Oysters, he says, “once protected New Yorkers from storm surges, a bivalve population that numbered in the trillions and that played a critical role in stabilizing the shoreline from Washington to Boston.”

Superstorm Sandy, by the Numbers, From the number of states affected to the total snowfall, NBC News provides a “by the numbers” look at this historic storm. FEMA’s estimates for potential wind damage caused by the storm: $2.5-$3 billion. And that’s without accounting for the massive flooding experienced in New Jersey and New York.

Assessing the Damage from Hurricane Sandy, The New York Times. The Times has a series of interactive graphics, photos and social media updated chronicling the magnitude of the storms effects, from power failures, to wind damage, to massive flooding.

Hurricane Hunters, NOAA Ocean Today. NOAA has a video profile of its “hurricane hunters” who fly into hurricanes to collect data on the storms. While satellites can track their movement, meteorologists and researchers need to sample hurricanes directly to get the most accurate information about them.

Slow Moving Hurricanes Such as Sandy on the Rise, New ScientistNew Scientist chronicles how and why slow moving, damaging storms like Sandy may be the new normal. The combination of warming seas, rising sea levels and our penchant for building cities along our coasts means we’re likely to see more damage from storms like this in the future.

Sandy, Unspent, Moves Toward Great Lakes, The Christian Science Monitor. Sandy moved over Western Pennsylvania today and headed to the Great Lakes, where it is expected to dump at least a foot of rain and create swells on Lakes Michigan and Huron that could reach 35 feet.

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