The Navesink River and Ocean Zone Up Next
By John Burton
RED BANK – It was a good week last week for Cindy Zipf and her organization, Clean Ocean Action, with the hard fought defeat of a liquid natural gas (LNG) terminal and accompanying pipeline, but the work of protecting the environment continues.
COA, a coalition of 117 organizations, is turning its attention to the health of the Navesink River and returning to the task of establishing a Clean Ocean Zone 20 miles from the shoreline running from Montauk Point to Cape May. But Zipf is still calling for Gov. Chris Christie to take a stand on the LNG proposal to strengthen the state’s position in anticipation of the possible submission of a modified, but similar proposal.
Zipf and Catie Tobin, COA’s marine science education coordinator, sat down with The Two River Times Nov. 19 in a wide ranging discussion about the group’s ongoing projects. COA and other environmental groups shared a big win against LNG last week, although, they would certainly say it was a victory for the environment, as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo evoked his unilateral veto to stop a liquid natural gas (LNG) terminal and accompanying pipeline proposed 18 miles off Jones Beach and 28 miles off Long Branch.
Zipf’s organization along with the Sierra Club, NY/NJ Baykeeper, American Littoral Society, Sen. Jennifer Beck and Representative Frank Pallone, had vociferously opposed the plan that was under consideration by federal agencies. Opponents for the better part of seven years have maintained this LNG facility and similar proposals pose a real threat to the environment, economy and national security and had worked to encourage the public to offer their opinions and persuade federal officials to deny the licensing application. On Nov. 12 Cuomo agreed, expressing the same concerns when he signed his veto.
Zipf noted the U.S. would be a natural gas exporter by 2017 and therefore the facility wouldn’t be needed for domestic use. Besides, “there are alternatives out there,” on the energy front, those that are more efficient and renewable, including considering offshore wind energy that could be established in the same area of the Atlantic.
But this was only one of a number of fronts the group has been coordinating its efforts.
A major push for COA will be to again take up the cause of establishing a Clean Ocean Zone. Environmentalists are encouraging lawmakers – ideally on the federal level, but until then state legislation will work – to establish a 20-mile zone for the New York/New Jersey Bight – an idea that has been discussed for roughly two decades. The zone would “lock out the bad and lock in the good,” as it relates to the waters from Montauk Point, New York, to Cape May, protecting the marine life, preventing the Atlantic Ocean’s over-industrialization and prohibiting new ocean dumpsites, Zipf said. Another pressing front is the Navesink River here in the Two River area and the growing problem of pollution in the waterway. The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has downgraded the water quality for portions of the river. The DEP has prohibited the harvesting of shellfish and recommends not swimming in those portions of the river, extending to McClee’s Creek in Middletown and west of the Cooper’s Bridge into the Swimming River, due to contamination
“It is certainly a cause of concern,” she said.
A major culprit for the contamination is fecal matter bringing with it E. coli bacteria, according to Zipf.
“When it rains,” she explained, “that entire area is contaminated.” Fertilizer is also a major concern.
COA is working with other organizations “to bring them all together to come up with a game plan,” Zipf said. And that could involve utilizing the services of Environmental Canine Services. That New England–based company uses scenting dogs to detect and source track human sewage contamination in storm water systems. And this game plan, when completed “could be a model for all the other watershed areas of New Jersey,” she said.
COA continues to conduct its Beach Sweeps, with the help of volunteers who work to remove debris and trash from the shore. The organization also conducts educational programs in schools and works with municipalities on their environmental issues and helping them in obtaining the DEP’s Sustainable Jersey certification program and Clean Ocean Action’s Municipal Blue Star program for municipal environmental stewardship.
COA was established 31 years ago, an outgrowth of the Ocean Dumping Task Force and has now grown to a large coalition. Zipf started with the task force about that time, being brought into the organization by Dery Bennett, the former executive director of the American Littoral Society, who died in 2009.
Zipf considered Bennett “a guru, a mentor.” “In many ways he was a father figure to me,” she noted.
“He was the one who let me find the path in life that I didn’t know was in me,” she explained.
Referring to the environmental organization’s work focusing on cleaning and protecting area waters, “The whole goal is we shouldn’t be needed,” however, there is always more work, Zipf explained. “Our goal is to put ourselves our of business. We shouldn’t be needed, but that’s not the case yet.”
Great progress has been made over the 30 years, as we no longer have medical waste washing up on our shores and beach closings because of contamination are now rare instead of commonplace. But Bennett instilled in Zipf a lesson that has shown itself to be true time and again.
“Dery use to say, ‘Environmental victories are always temporary,’” Zipf recalled.
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