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Barnegat Bay's Ecological Restoration Moving Ahead-CNBNEWS.NET

Looking over Barnegat Bay from Barnegat Light,...Image via Wikipedia

(11/P85) TRENTON - Spearheaded by the Department of Environmental Protection, a new ecosystem-based water quality monitoring network is gathering critical information about Barnegat Bay that will greatly enhance the Christie Administration's comprehensive plan to restore this ecologically sensitive and economically important estuary.

The DEP launched the Barnegat Bay Water Quality Monitoring Network in June, and has been working with state, local, federal, volunteer, and academic partners to gather data on pollutants, sources of those pollutants, and how water flow affects the health of the bay. The DEP and its partners demonstrated how the network works to the news media today at the Lighthouse Camp, a state-owned environmental center along Barnegat Bay in Waretown.

"The Christie Administration is committed to the ecological restoration of Barnegat Bay," Commissioner Martin said. "The data collected by this network will provide the foundation for the development of appropriate water quality standards for the bay. At the same time, this research will enable us to focus policies and resources to make sure that we are addressing the complex problems the bay faces as effectively and quickly as possible." 

This monitoring network is a vital component of the Christie Administration's 10-point comprehensive restoration plan for Barnegat Bay launched in December. This plan includes negotiating the safe closure of the Oyster Creek nuclear plant 10 years ahead of its license expiration; providing grants and extremely attractive financing to help local governments improve stormwater infrastructure; adopting the nation's toughest fertilizer-use law; and bolstering public education to help residents and visitors protect the bay. 

"While a great deal of research has been done on the bay and its problems, unfortunately there are significant information gaps," said L. Stanton Hales, Jr., Director of the Barnegat Bay Partnership, one of the DEP's nine partners. "Brown tide outbreaks, declines in hard clam and eel grass populations, and population explosions of sea nettles are some of the most visible signs of the ecological stress the bay is under. Yet the role that specific changes in water quality parameters have in causing these and other bay problems remain unclear."

The monitoring network will:

* Provide a more comprehensive assessment of the relevant water quality conditions throughout Barnegat Bay;

* Provide water quality and ecological data to better quantify biological productivity and its impact on dissolved oxygen concentrations in the bay;

* Estimate the nutrient loadings into the bay and pinpoint the sources of those nutrients;

* Provide an understanding of the physical factors that may be affecting the bay water quality, such as the flushing rate, temperature, salinity and the depth of the bay;

* Collect sufficient data (minimum 24 months) to develop water quality and hydrodynamics models;

* Collect data that will capture seasonal variability as well as variability between years;

* Collect sediment toxicity data to assess causes of biological changes, such as loss of submerged aquatic vegetation, declines in hard clams, and increases in invasive species.

The DEP's partners are the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Barnegat Bay Partnership, Monmouth University's Urban Coast Institute, the Pinelands Commission, the Brick Township Municipal Utilities Authority, Marine Academy of Technological and Environmental Science (MATES) at Ocean County Vocational Technical School, the Ocean County Health Department, and the Ocean County Utilities Authority. 

"This is not just a chance to be a part of this important research on Barnegat Bay, it is an opportunity to add real-world experience to the education of our students," said John Wnek, vice principal of the MATES Academy, which is providing students to take water samples. 

The partners are taking water quality samples every other week by hand from 13 locations on tributaries to the bay and by boat at 14 locations within the bay itself. The samples are rushed to staging areas at the DEP's Forest Resource Education Center in Jackson or the DEP's Bureau of Marine Water Monitoring in Leeds Point. The samples are then tested at Leeds Point, the Ocean County Utilities Authority or an Environmental Protection Agency laboratory in Edison. 

The network will be measuring key water parameters such as pH, temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, chlorophyll, and nutrients. In addition, water flow will be monitored at tributaries, in the bay, and at ocean inlets to help researchers better understand the impacts of water movement in the bay. 

The 660-square-mile Barnegat Bay watershed is highly developed. Stormwater runoff that flows into the bay contains pollutants such as nutrients from fertilizers that cause excessive weed and algae growth that adversely affects water quality and aquatic life. The bay's problems are compounded by the fact that it is very shallow and has few inlets, resulting in slow flushing of degraded water into the ocean.

Working with the U.S. Geological Survey, the DEP will use monitoring data set to develop models simulating what happens to nutrients, sediments and other inputs to the bay, providing the DEP with an important tool to determine the locations and extent of water quality problems.

"Over the course of the project, the DEP and its partners will compile the most comprehensive water quality and flow data set ever developed for Barnegat Bay," said Jill Lipoti, Director of the DEP's Division of Water Monitoring Standards.

The DEP has developed an interactive map that displays information from each of the monitoring locations that can be viewed online by visiting:  

For more information on Barnegat Bay, the Governor's 10-point plan, the DEP's six-month status report, and a ranking of stormwater infrastructure projects, 
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