By Jay Cook |
TRENTON – A longtime environmentalist who worked to improve the health of local waterways is leaving the Two River area for Trenton.
Debbie Mans, the former executive director of the Keyport-based NY/NJ Baykeeper, was appointed last week to serve as the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) deputy commissioner, the agency announced. Mans was handpicked by the acting-DEP commissioner, Catherine R. McCabe.
The hire has also served as a rallying cry for local environmentalists who say New Jersey will benefit from Mans’ years of expertise and ability to negotiate.
“We had to play a lot of defense for the last eight years trying to stop bad things from happening,” said Greg Remaud, the acting executive director of NY/NJ Baykeeper. “We believe now that’s going to reverse.”
Mans had been the face of NY/NJ Baykeeper since 2008, a self-proclaimed “citizen guardian” for the Hudson-Raritan Estuary that encompasses waters in New York and New Jersey. Mans and NY/NJ Baykeeper have been busy on the homefront in recent years, pushing for new programs and more pro-environmental legislation on the state level.
More recently, Mans has been sternly opposed to the 23-mile-long Williams Transco Pipeline project planned to be built through Raritan Bay. She also testified before Congress last month in support of the $1.3-billion Passaic River Superfund cleanup site program destined for North Jersey.
“I am excited to join the Department of Environmental Protection and get to work on a number of key environmental issues facing our state,” said Mans, in a statement. “We need to ensure that New Jersey is on a path to clean energy and sustainability, while also protecting public health, cleaning up polluted sites, and conserving our natural resources.”
Mans’ path back to Trenton has been a busy one. From 2006 to 2008, she was the environmental and energy policy advisor to then-Gov. Jon Corzine, helping craft clean energy plans through 2020. Before that, from 2002 through 2006, she served as NY/NJ Baykeeper’s policy director.
“Debbie Mans’ commitment to clean energy and conservation makes her an excellent choice to help the DEP lead the nation in developing solutions to such critical issues as climate change and renewable energy,” McCabe said in a statement. “Debbie has spent her entire career devoted to improving the environment for all, and I look forward to her expertise helping shape our mission.”
Throughout that tenure of protecting water quality, organizing open space and fighting battles with large energy companies, Mans has collaborated with many of the local environmentalist groups who call the Two River area home.
“It’s extremely important and of great value to have someone at that level who not only understands the issues of consequence that affect our quality of life, but also someone that knows the value of grassroots and citizen involvement,” said Cindy Zipf, Clean Ocean Action’s executive director.
Zipf said COA has worked with Baykeeper on environmental law enforcement issues, as well as how to tackle green energy on a statewide platform in their time.
Yet more than anything, Mans’ hire signals a stark change from Gov. Chris Christie’s DEP, Zipf said.
“Time will tell, but it’s certainly a 180 in terms of the interest in broad environmental issues facing our state,” she said.
Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society, said state policy is in more-than-capable hands.
“She is smart and principled, an unfailing advocate for the environment with a lot of experience in both government and the advocacy sides,” Dillingham said. “I have nothing but high regard for her.”
Dillingham and Mans go back to some of their first environmental policy positions. From 2000 to 2002, Mans was a policy and outreach specialist for the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association in Pennington. At the same time, Dillingham was on the board of directors there.
Their partnership flourished when they both ended up leading environmental groups headquartered along the same body of water along the Jersey Shore.
NY/NJ Baykeeper has been one of the state’s leaders in reintroducing oyster reefs to rivers and bays. Oysters can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day and many believe they could be the answer to helping remove pollutants in the water.
After installing manmade oyster castles off of the 2.9-mile-long Naval Weapons Station Earle Pier in Leonardo in 2016, NY/NJ Baykeeper announced in December oyster spat, or baby oysters were found growing on the structures.
The American Littoral Society has been trying to implement a similar program in the Navesink and Shrewsbury rivers, beginning this past summer. Dillingham said his organization is following similar steps to see his program flourish in the two rivers.
And Dillingham had a message for the private and public sectors who soon will interact with Mans.
“She’s a great negotiator and she’s going to find a way to push the public’s agenda and still engage all the stakeholders that the state government has to please,” he said.
Remaud Named Acting Executive Director
NY/NJ Baykeeper announced on Tuesday evening that Greg Remaud would be named the organization’s acting executive director for the time being. Official changes and possible restructuring will happen in March when its board of directors convenes.
It’s an honor for Remaud, who has been with NY/NJ Baykeeper now for two decades.
“From Dery (Bennett), to Andy (Willner), to Debbie (Mans), those are three extraordinary environmentalists and human beings,” he said. “It means a lot to have that opportunity and follow in those footsteps.”
Remaud’s time has been spent as NY/NJ Baykeeper’s conservation director, where he spent years “trying to preserve natural land and open space in areas that are densely developed where (residents) don’t have a lot.”
Since the organization began in 1989, it has preserved over 3,500 acres of land ranging from the North Jersey Meadowlands to the Raritan Bayshore. Most recently, NY/NJ Baykeeper helped preserve 250 acres for the newly formulated Freneau Woods, an addition to the Monmouth County Park System.
This article was first published in the Feb. 15-22, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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