Barnegat Light holds the line on municipal taxes

The borough of Barnegat Light will be able to hold the line on municipal taxes due to an increase in ratables and a concentration on paying down the debt service.

The 2015 budget introduced at the March 11 meeting of borough council included a general appropriation of $3,341,612. The borough’s tax rate will remain at 19.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The municipal purposes tax rate does not include county or school taxes.

A public hearing on the spending plan is scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 8.

Last year, taxes had gone up one penny, and no one from the public commented at the hearing.

The total net valuation of taxable property in the borough is now $1.08 billion.

Recently, the borough refinanced its municipal debt and obtained a financing rate of .68 percent. The borough paid down $381,285 of its total debt.

Lifeguards, previously the lowest-paid on the Island, will benefit with money included in the introduced budget. A total of $725 more per week is allotted to be divided among squad members.

“That will put us more in line with the other towns. Hopefully they will be happy, and next year we can give them a raise again to get them closer,” said Councilwoman Dottie Reynolds, chairwoman of the beaches and parks committee.

The Barnegat Light Beach Patrol is a six-time champion of the Island-wide lifeguard tournament.

Beach badge sales for this year are already above the dollar amount of this time last year, Reynolds noted.

“We have sold $10,700 worth of badges; that is now more than $2,000 over this time in 2014.”

Water Line Breaks, Check for Gas Smell

In other decisions, when a resident’s water has to be shut off by the borough after a water line break, the fee will now be higher than before, if the crews have to come out after-hours.

The after-hours shut-off fees were raised to $200, compared to the former $75. Borough council members said the new charge reflects closer to the actual cost of paying the crews to come out.

“We’re not doing this to penalize anyone,” said Mayor Kirk Larson.

“It’s just to break even,” said Michael Spark, chairman of the water and sewer committee on council. “It can take four or five hours to find the shut-off valves if they’re under the snow drifts” and complete the job, he said.

“We’re paying the guys double-time to come out,” Spark said, and he also referred to the union contract that requires pay for a minimum number of hours when the employees are called out after-hours. “That’s what plumbers charge,” he added, speaking during the caucus meeting.

The prolonged cold snap caused 25 to 30 water line breaks in town, Spark said.

Apparatus of the outer parts of natural gas meters is also cracking under the cold in a few cases.

In his public safety report, Councilman Frank Mikuletzky advised homeowners to be aware for the smell of gas because there were “quite a few” cases of gas leaks in the past month. Some were in the diaphragms of meters and some in pipes.

One recent leak filled a garage with gas on 20th Street, and another on Sunday, March 8, came from a meter in High Bar Harbor.

“It seems like a good idea to walk around where the meter is and take a sniff. If you smell gas, report it and get away from it,” Mikuletzky reminded.

Touch-Ups Planned for Borough Hall

Two bond ordinances were introduced on first reading – one to appropriate $200,0000 for beach walk replacement, and another to appropriate $150,000 for repairs and improvements to the old Borough Hall on West 10th Street.

The repairs would include painting outside and new carpeting inside, said Borough Administrator/Clerk Gail Wetmore. The old Borough Hall section of the building houses the courtroom, tax assessor’s office and an annex station of the Long Beach Township Police Department, which is contracted to patrol Barnegat Light.

After a short executive session, council agreed to authorize spending up to $5,400 to LSRP Consulting for remediation where an underground storage tank used to be in the public dock area. The tank was removed in the past, but the remediation had not been done, borough representatives said.

Borough council accepted the resignation of Assistant Treasurer Paula Bastian, who is taking a position as the new temporary chief financial officer in Eagleswood Township.

In other business, council decided to raise the fee for lease of the 16th Street bayside bulkhead from $250 per week to $500 per week. A barge company and other businesses have been using the site for its easy access to the inlet.

In answer to a question during the public comment portion of the meeting, Wetmore said that soon all of the Island towns will be getting together to work on obtaining the credits for the Community Rating System that allow discounts on flood insurance. Currently, each town pursues those discounts separately, and some towns are qualifying for higher discounts than the 15 percent that Barnegat Light residents are receiving.

A resolution to oppose the proposed closing of “Gitmo,” the Guantanamo Bay prison detention camp in Cuba, was penned by Mayor Larson and passed with a vote of council.

“I hope it gets around the country,” the mayor said this week. “I don’t want them to bring those prisoners into New York,” he remarked at the caucus meeting.

Release of five Yemeni prisoners in January 2015 drew media attention to President Obama’s pledge to close the camp. Four were transferred to Oman and one to Estonia. The previous month, four detainees had been sent to Afghanistan and five others to Kazakhstan.

The borough Easter Egg Hunt is Saturday, April 4, at 10 a.m. at the West 10th Street recreational area.

Playground repairs and upgrades on West 10th Street will start April 6.

- Reposted from The Sandpaper

Barnegat Light holds the line on municipal taxes


Beach replenishment beginning in Ship Bottom next month

Beach replenishment slated to begin in Ship Bottom next month

The schedule for beach replenishment on Long Beach Island has changed once again, with contractor Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. now set to begin dredging in Ship Bottom in late April.

Work for the LBI Coastal Storm Damage Reduction project, a joint effort between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Philadelphia District and the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection, was previously expected to begin in southern Long Beach Township. However, as ACE Public Affairs Officer Steve Rochette explained, “Great Lakes modified the schedule based on equipment availability and operational considerations.”

Great Lakes plans to mobilize two dredges, the Padre Island and the Dodge Island, to commence the beach renourishment. Pipe landings will be made at Eighth Street and 23rd Street in Ship Bottom when the work begins next month. “From each landing site, construction will first progress north and then flip and progress south,” said Rochette. “Beachfill operations are expected to last 35 days within the borough of Ship Bottom.”

Crews will then move to southern Long Beach Township, and will progress south to the end of the project in Holgate. Five pipe landing sites will be necessary for this section of the project.

“A third dredge, the Liberty Island, is scheduled to mobilize to the project site in August 2015 and begin operations in one of the remaining sections of the project,” Rochette noted.

No more than 1,000 feet of beach will be closed as work progresses along the Island; closed sections are “rolling,” said Rochette, and advance as the beachfill progresses. Great Lakes anticipates construction to progress approximately 100 feet per day.

Under the base contract, all work is required to be complete by April 12, 2016, though there are currently options on the contract for further work that, if awarded, could add time to the contract completion date. Weather and mechanical delays may also cause a change in the construction schedule and completion date.

Last year, the Army Corps awarded a $128 million contract to Great Lakes for this project, which involves dredging approximately 8a million cubic yards of sand from an approved borrow area 3 miles offshore.

As the Corps reports, “The sand will be pumped through a series of pipes onto the beaches within the municipalities of Long Beach Township, Ship Bottom, Beach Haven and a small section of Surf City over a length of 12.7 miles. The sand is then built into a dune and berm system designed to reduce potential damages to infrastructure, businesses, and homes that can occur from coastal storm events.”

The contract also includes the construction of dune crossovers, dune fencing installation and dune grass plantings.

The LBI project was only partially completed when Superstorm Sandy hit the Jersey Shore in fall 2012. Prior to that, “the Army Corps completed the initial construction of the project at Surf City in 2006; Harvey Cedars in 2010; and Brant Beach between 31st and 57th Streets, in Long Beach Township, in 2012,” an ACE press release stated. “The Army Corps repaired beaches in Surf City and Harvey Cedars in 2012 after Hurricane Irene, and fully restored the beaches within all three communities after Hurricane Sandy in 2013. The restoration and repair work was funded 100 percent through the Army Corps’ Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies program. The current contract will complete the initial construction of the dune and berm system on Long Beach Island.

“Construction is funded entirely by the federal government through the 2013 Disaster Relief Appropriations Act (PL113-2), commonly known as the Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill. Following the completion of initial construction, the project is eligible for continued periodic nourishment.”

Updates on the project will be posted to the ACE website – www.nap.usace.army.mil – as information is available.

- Reposted from The Sandpaper

Beach replenishment beginning in Ship Bottom next month

 

 


Flood insurance rate hikes affect everyone in April

Surcharges and other fees plus a 15 percent flood insurance rate increase to many property owners along the shore come into effect on April 1, according to Jeff Wyrsch, co-owner of the Van Dyk Insurance Group.

“I think they are going to be pretty significant across the board,” he said on Monday.

Annual surcharges and the implementation of something called a reserve fee are part of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 that replaced the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012.

The Van Dyk Group and other insurance agencies that handle flood insurance received the following message from the National Flood Insurance Program.

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is implementing a new law that slows some flood insurance rate increases and offers financial relief to some policyholders who experienced steep flood premium increases in 2013 and early 2014. Known as the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014, the new legislation also continues efforts begun in 2012 to align insurance rates more closely with risk. As a result, beginning April 1, 2015, some rating options will change, flood insurance rates will increase (or decrease), and other charges will be revised or added. The changes will affect new and existing policies.”

According to Wyrsch, “Shortly after Sandy, the NFIP implemented a reserve fee of 5 percent of the (individual’s flood policy) premium, and that is being increased to 15 percent of the premium. It’s called a reserve fee because theoretically, it’s to be set aside in case another storm like Katrina or Sandy comes along. But it’s really a matter of trying to stop the NFIP from losing money.”

In addition, the NFIP has implemented new surcharges that for the owner of a primary residence will be $25 annually, but for the owner of a second home or a business will be $250 annually.

Annual rate increases for all risk classes could go up as much as 15 percent. Those currently receiving subsidies because of their Pre-FIRM status (those who owned their homes before the National Flood Insurance Program and flood insurance rate maps came into existence) will see at least a 5 percent increase.

The news for second homeowners and businesses is that they will go up 18 percent. This is bad enough, but Biggert-Waters would have been more egregious, allowing rates to rise to full risk in one year.

On the other hand, ratepayers may be able to save money if they decide to change their deductible from $5,000 to $10,000. “They could get a discount of 40 percent on their premium depending on whether the bank holding their mortgage agrees,” said Wyrsch. “You never know how these things are going to function in reality.”

Wyrsch said he wanted to get the news out that rates will be going up no matter where a person lives in the flood zone and no matter how big or how small the home is. “Flood insurance is not based on the value of the home; it’s only based on how high it is elevated and if it has been significantly improved and is no longer grandfathered.”

The NFIP now requires photos of a property when it changes hands.

Those who have elevated their substantially damaged homes since Sandy should see a huge rate decrease based on how much they have elevated out of the risk of flood waters.

For more personalized information, call your flood insurance agent; for general information, go to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Flood Insurance Reform webpages.

- Reposted from The Sandpaper, 3/18/15

Flood insurance rate hikes affect everyone in April


A memorable winter at Barnegat Light Coast Guard station

mainIt seems as if the winter of 2014-15 is finally fading away. True, the National Weather Service in Mount Holly is predicting sleet for much of the mainland area on Friday night, and the thermometer will probably dip just below freezing a few more times before a gasping and dying Old Man Winter draws his last breath. On the other hand, daytime highs will be in the 40s and even the 50s in the coming week. Let me hear you say a big hallelujah!

No more getting up in the morning to dig out your driveway, scrape the ice off your windshield and keep a sharp eye out for black ice. Can I get a giant amen?!

It was definitely a cold winter – New Jersey state climatologist David A. Robinson reported that it was the third coldest February, with an average temperature of just 22 degrees, and the sixth coldest month overall in the state since records started being kept in 1895. Robinson also said the average temperature in New Jersey for the “meteorological winter” of December through February this season was 29.5 degrees, making it the 21st coldest winter in the past 120 years.

Still, if you’ve lived in New Jersey much of your lifetime, you’ve probably seen worse. Many people can recall February 1979, when the average temperature was 21.9 degrees, the second coldest February in recorded New Jersey history. As for the entire winter, 1993-94 logged an average temperature of 29 degrees.

What, however, if you’re not from New Jersey? What if you grew up in a southern clime? It just so happens that several crewmembers of U.S. Coast Guard Station Barnegat Light grew up in our nation’s most southern clime: Florida. Seaman Casey Vockell, for example, lived in Jacksonville and hadn’t experienced a northern winter, even a mild northern winter, until this year. He’s surely got some stories for his Floridian buddies.

“In Jacksonville it was a big deal when it got below freezing,” he said.

Vockell was assigned to Station Barnegat Light after he completed basic training in Cape May last summer, so he said he was lucky to experience a “gradual change” in the weather upon being stationed on LBI. Still, as the winter set in, he realized he wasn’t in Kansas – oops, make that Florida – anymore.

He noticed that he was adding more and more hoodies to his civilian wardrobe, and he realized he wouldn’t miss “getting up early to de-ice the 47s.”

If you think cleaning off your automobile after a snowstorm or scraping your windshield clear in freezing rain is a pain, imagine if your car or truck sat in the freezing waters of Barnegat Bay all night. That is exactly what the station’s 47-foot motor lifeboats do. Ice quickly builds on a boat’s surface during freezing weather because of wind-driven spray. Indeed, ice can become so thick and heavy that it can capsize a vessel. That means much of the time of a Coastie (or any mariner, for that matter) serving in cold weather will be spent chipping ice.

“De-icing,” said Vockell, “is important to the boat’s stability and to prevent slipping on the deck.”

And what tools do Vockell and his mates use for de-icing? “Shovels and mallets,” he said.

High tech!

Chief Warrant Officer Kevin A. Speer, commanding officer at Station Barnegat Light, said his crew has been busy fighting the elements this winter. Luckily, the season has been otherwise quiet.

“We’ve been iced in for the last month,” he said.

His 25- and 24-foot boats were taken out of the picture by the weather. His 47-foot MLBs could get through the ice to the open ocean, but only slowly and deliberately.

“We could respond to SAR (search and rescue) as needed,” said Speer. “We can always get out, but the question is getting back. We’d probably have to go somewhere else to tie up.”

The 47-foot MLB has been the backbone of the Coast Guard’s small boat fleet since the late 1990s, when it replaced the aging 44-foot MLB (one can be seen at the Tuckerton Seaport), introduced in the mid-1960s. The 47-footers were launched with great fanfare because they were much faster than the 44s, with a top speed of 25 knots (29 mph), as compared to their predecessors’ top speed of 14 knots (16 mph). That allowed the Coast Guard to close many small boat stations because the effective range of the remaining stations was greatly increased.

Like the 44, the 47 is a self-righting vessel that can quickly turn upright if capsized, an extremely useful ability when deployed in heavy surf. The 47 can right itself in less than 10 seconds.

The 47, though, isn’t quite as versatile as the 44. The newer boat has a draft of 4 feet, 6 inches, which means it can’t operate in as shallow water as the 44, which had a draft of 3.3 feet. And the 47’s hull is aluminum while the 44’s was reinforced steel, so while the 44s were used for breaking harbor ice, the 47s are not.

“We were talking about the 44s this morning,” said Speer, who enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1990 and was certified as a surfman on the 44 in 1996.

So icebreaking is one experience Vockell won’t be able to describe to his friends and family in Florida. He surely will, however, be able to tell them plenty about chipping ice.

- Reposted from The Sandpaper, 3/13/15

 

A memorable winter at Barnegat Light Coast Guard station


NRC releases annual report on Oyster Creek power plant

NRC releases annual report on Oyster Creek power plantThe Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant in Lacey Township was one of 19 high-performing reactors nationwide that needed to resolve safety issues this year, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said in a letter Friday.

The plant had 3.5 unplanned scrams per 7,000 critical hours in the third quarter of 2014. That put the plant into the ”white” performance threshold from “green,” which is the safest.

The issues, described as having “low safety significance” have since been resolved, the letter said. In the fourth quarter of 2014, the plant had 1.8 unplanned scarms per 7,000 crtical hours, placing it back into the “green” threshold.

“Your staff’s evaluation appropriately identified the primary root and contributing causes for each of the reactor scrams that contributed to the White performance indicator,” an annual assessment letter for Oyster Creek said.

NRC releases annual reportSuzanne D’Ambrosio, a spokeswoman for Exelon Generation, the owner and operator of Oyster Creek, said in a statement that none of the operational challenges posed any threat to the health and safety of the plant, our workers or the general public.

However, the NRC said it has not yet finalized the significance of two apparent violations at the power plant.

One apparent violation was a preliminary “yellow” finding of “inadequate application of materials, parts, equipment and processes associated with electromatic relief valves.”

The second was a preliminary white finding of “failure to review maintenance process results in inoperable emergency diesel generator.”

The assessment letter said the final safety significance of these apparent violations may affect the NRC’s assessment of the plant’s performance.

“While these violations fail to meet Oyster Creek’s high standards for operational excellence, they do not represent a larger pattern of safety and reliability issues at the station,” D’Ambrosio said in a statement.

- Reposted from The Press of Atlantic City, 3/6/15

NRC releases annual report on Oyster Creek power plant

 

 

 

 


State meeting on fishing industry rescheduled

Due to inclement weather the meeting of the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council, originally scheduled for March 5, at the Atlantic County Library has been rescheduled.

The meeting has major agenda items concerning striped bass, summer flounder and black sea bass. The meeting has been rescheduled to April 9, 2015 at 4PM.  It will now be held in Manahawkin at 260 East Bay Avenue.

State meeting on fishing industry rescheduled

 

 


Patriotism maintained at causeway bridge work site

Patriotism maintained at causeway bridge work siteBoth east and west-bound lane closures on the Causeway bridges will continue throughout the next few weeks as the center medians on the east and west thoroughfares are removed and then replaced with temporary barriers, Stephen Schapiro, Communications Director of the NJ Department of Transportation, told The SandPaper. The project is expected to begin on Monday, March 9, weather permitting. One lane in each direction will remain open to motorists throughout the length of the project, Schapiro assured.

Lane closures this past week were coordinated with Schiavone Construction Co.’s current work to include reflectors on the center area of the main bridge, which local officials requested, Schapiro said.

Although a pair of American flags has been hanging from the cranes at the work site since Schiavone began working at the location, passersby may have only recently noticed them. The flags, which “are usually taken down during the work shift when the cranes are in use and put up when the shift is over,” Schapiro explained, appeared more visible when smaller, 8-by-10-foot flags were recently switched out for larger, 10-by-15-foot flags.

One of the flags has also recently remained on display as Schiavone has ceased using one of the two cranes.

Schiavone hangs American flags at all of its project sites, Schapiro noted.

“Contractors often hang flags to show the pride and patriotism that everyone on a project feels in helping to build the country’s infrastructure,” he said.

Patriotism maintained at causeway bridge work site

- Reposted from The Sandpaper, 3/4/15

 Patriotism maintained at causeway bridge work site

 

 

 


What’s going on with Flood Insurance Rate Maps

What’s going on with Flood Insurance Rate Maps

FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Map Seminar

Many people have fears that since Superstorm Sandy, their flood insurance rates will go up out of sight. But according to FEMA flood insurance expert Steven Ardito, the new Flood Insurance Rate Maps have yet to take effect and most of the provisions contained in the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012 – meant to get the National Flood Insurance Program out of debt – have been repealed. The Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act passed in 2014 will slow the increases of premiums, especially in regards to ownership.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency held a personalized seminar on the Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) Feb. 26 in Stafford Township. Those who brought their Base Flood Elevation (BFE) survey with them and current flood insurance bill could get a pretty good idea of where their rates would be going once the FIRM map is adopted. The map has another year of making the rounds of government offices and public hearings before it is stamped “final.”

Indeed, the seminar on Thursday was part of the public vetting of the map.

Because the seminar was a one-on-one personalized session, the first stop for this reporter (whose Sandy-repaired house in Tuckerton Beach is on the wait list to be elevated) was a sit down with a FEMA Region 2 mitigation outreach person, Andrew Mortin. With my address in hand, he quickly pulled up a satellite map that showed my street and the roof of my small house. He discovered that my risk, under the flood insurers’ rating, would increase slightly because I am placed in an AE zone 9 on the new map rather than the AE zone 8. But because I was planning to elevate above my BFE of 9 feet above sea level, I could thumb my nose at the change. Tuckerton, I told him, has required in their ordinances that houses in Tuckerton Beach be elevated an additional 3 feet (of what they call freeboard), plus the one foot required by the state; I would be at 13 feet above sea level.

Mortin was impressed. “I applaud Tuckerton for that. I think that will greatly diminish the risk of flood damage.”

Mortin said anyone could, and should, access the preliminary flood map and learn their flood zone by going online to region2coastal.com.

Anyone who disagrees with the zone category where his or her house appears can appeal the map by going to his or her municipal flood plain manager with technical information that proves a disparity.

Since Sandy, I had done a number of stories on preliminary Flood maps, and I needed a refresher course from Mortin on just what map we were now concerned with.

Mortin explained that FEMA was at work on a new FIRM map that they had started in 2009 and were two-thirds finished when Superstorm Sandy hit. The first maps that were given to the public were for reconstruction purposes only and had nothing to do with insurance. “That was the ABFE (advisory base flood elevation) map for people who wanted to rebuild quickly. Then in January of 2013, we released a more final map but it was still a preliminary work map to be used only for construction. Now in January of 2014 came the Advisory Flood Insurance Rate Map. And after appeals we will release the Revised Preliminary FIRM.”

From this I learned that only the FIRM map was relevant to insurance rates. Okay.

So next was a sit down with Ardito, a FEMA Insurance Program Specialist. He looked over my flood insurance declarations page and pronounced it sub-par for information, so he wouldn’t give an opinion on whether I was paying too much. He did see a misstatement that said I was built on a slab and not on a crawl space, when I am up on three feet of concrete blocks.

Also we couldn’t figure out why my house, which was built in the early 1970s before the flood insurance rate maps were developed (pre-FIRM), was not grandfathered for a subsidy. But no matter, those subsidies would be going away eventually, he said.

The fact that some time in the future, my house will be elevated above the base flood elevation and be “in compliance,” means I will pay around $450 a year for flood insurance rather than the $1,700 I am paying now. Good deal.

“Even if the zone changes, that doesn’t mean that you will be penalized in your rate,” said Ardito. “Every time a map changes, homeowners can’t go out and bring it into compliance,” he said. “We understand that.”

For those who are not raising their homes and are below the base flood elevation for their area, a simple thing they can do to lower insurance rates is to install flood vents, he said.

There is a rather complicated scale that insurance companies use to bring up a base flood elevation artificially if the homeowner installs vents. “If your foundation’s lowest floor is at 3.01 feet, and the next floor elevation is at 6.04 feet, if the proper storm vents are installed you would gain 3 feet of betterment: The insurance considers that you are at 6.04 feet.”

His last advice was for each individual to talk to his or her insurance agent.

But for those who are elevating, each foot above the BFE, up to four feet, means a substantial reduction in rates. “For an example, in theory, for a house worth $250,000 and covered for $10,000 in contents, if at base level or elevation 0, the homeowner would expect to pay $1,200 a year,” he said. “Then for every foot above, they would see a discount. For 1 foot above BFE they would pay $900; for 2 feet $700; up to 4 feet, when it would be $450. To go any higher makes no difference in the rate – at 5 or 6 (feet above BFE) it would still be $450.”

So freeboard does work?

“That’s also based on whether the structure is resilient and code-compliant,” he said.

Ardito said the marketability of homes that have been mitigated is much higher than those that have not. Flood insurance rates are transferred to the new owners, no matter how many maps are done during the lifetime of the house.

“That was taken away with the Biggert-Waters Act, but that has been gutted,” he said.

To find guidance on installing flood vents, Ardito suggested going to the region2coastal.comwebsite, click on technical bulletins and find TB 1-08, which describes the type of vent that should be installed.

As for those dreaded V-zones, they apply to properties where high-velocity wave action is greater than 3 feet during a storm and experience such waves about once a year – a 1 percent chance of occurrence every year.

Sandy did not affect the FIRM, said Ardito. “Sandy far surpassed the 100-year event in magnitude, and that’s not what the maps are for. One such event does not change the maps.”

FEMA has just a few more counties to go in New Jersey with their public road show. When asked to describe the public response thus far, Ardito said that in general, people were pleased with the information they received. “All homeowners are basically the same when they come in: they are anxious and nervous about the unexpected. I would say we have a lot more happy people afterwards than when they first come in. They are getting information they might not get elsewhere, and that’s our reward.”

- Reposted from The Sandpaper, 3/4/15

What’s going on with Flood Insurance Rate Maps


Ocean Energy Management holds public meeting on offshore oil exploration

U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both D-N.J.) and Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.-6th) have commended the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s decision to hold a public meeting in New Jersey before the federal government moves forward with a five-year offshore leasing plan that includes opening parts of the Atlantic Ocean to offshore oil and gas drilling.

The announcement comes in response to a letter composed by Menendez, Booker and Pallone expressing concern over any drilling in the Atlantic, and asking for a public comment meeting to be held on the proposal.

“I thank the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for accepting our request, and look forward to the opportunity for local residents, business owners, fishermen and community leaders who would be most impacted by offshore drilling to have their voices heard,” said Menendez. “Our state’s coastline and economy would be shattered by an oil spill near our shore, and I believe this important public forum will help prove why we must kill the drill.”

Booker commented, “This public meeting is an important first step in helping the Obama administration understand the severity of the environmental and economic risks to New Jersey if oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic Ocean’s fragile ecosystem is permitted. I know that New Jerseyans will make their voices heard and make it clear that fossil fuel exploration off the Atlantic coast would be a devastating – and potentially irreparable – mistake.”

“Oil drilling in the Atlantic would put New Jersey’s shore communities and our state’s economy at significant risk,” added Pallone.  “And those who will be most seriously impacted by the choices we make today are those of us who call the beach our home, rely on it for our livelihood, or come to enjoy it year after year.”

According to a press release from the office of Menendez, he, Booker and Pallone “have been strong advocates for better environmental protection and increased transparency in the five-year Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program plan, criticizing closed-door meetings without advocates for the protection of shore economies and clean water. In a July 2014 letter to President Obama, they urged his administration to keep the Atlantic Coast off limits for oil and gas exploration, stressing that the environmental and economic consequences of an oil spill near the Jersey Shore would be catastrophic.”

- Reposted from The Sandpaper, 2/26/15

Ocean Energy Management holds public meeting on offshore oil exploration


New webpage details Rutgers’ proposed seismic study

New content on the Rutgers University Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences website – at geology.rutgers.edu/slin3d-home – details the seismic survey slated for 15 to 50 miles southeast of Barnegat Inlet this summer, pending successful completion of the National Science Foundation environmental compliance process.

Scientists from Rutgers and the University of Texas at Austin propose to examine the geologic record of past sea level changes and the effect on shoreline resilience via the planned seismic study. As a Rutgers media statement from May 22, 2014, explained, “Superstorm Sandy demonstrated the vulnerability of people, natural resources and infrastructure to the extremes of weather along the Jersey shore. Matching new 3D acoustic images to existing information will provide knowledge of shoreline stability during times of sea-level change and climate variability. … The study will be limited to 34 days of imaging similar to a medical sonogram of the ocean floor.”

The NSF-funded survey was scheduled to take place last summer, but was postponed after the research vessel experienced equipment problems.

Many on the Jersey Shore, from fishermen to environmental groups to lawmakers, opposed the project, expressing concern over the seismic airguns’ potential effect on sea life and fisheries commerce. The N.J. Department of Environmental Protection legally challenged the study, but was stymied in court.

Though the survey later came to a halt when the R/V Marcus G. Langseth was moored for repairs for a number of weeks – meaning the study could not meet the required 30 days of completed work by the project’s Aug. 17, 2014, deadline – NSF senior public affairs specialist Maria Zacharias noted at the time that research efforts are expected to be rescheduled for approximately the same time this year.

Rutgers professor Gregory Mountain, the study’s principal investigator, has said he cannot comment on the project due to continuing litigation, but he spearheaded the creation of the new website to provide background on, and answer questions about, the survey.

“We can’t prevent storms or sea-level rise,” the site reads, “but we can anticipate their arrival. One way to prepare for the future is to understand the past by embracing the geologist’s creed: ‘Look to the Earth and it will teach you.’ Sediments beneath the Jersey coast, both onshore and offshore, contain a long record of shoreline response to Earth’s natural cycles. By studying these sediments, geologists know that past sea-level rise has at times moved the shoreline 40 miles west of its current position; at other times sea-level fall has drawn the shoreline 80 miles east of today’s, reaching as far as the edge of the continental shelf.”

Rutgers and University of Texas at Austin scientists want to document the record of these changes in what they say is “the best way possible – by collecting acoustic images of the history preserved in the layering of sediment beneath the continental shelf. With it we intend to track patterns of shoreline response to the Earth’s ever-changing sea level. This website describes the background, methods and goals of our proposed research, and how we are following federal and state environmental compliance procedures.”

The site includes sections for FAQs, research, background, compliance and photos. A “shipboard blog” will also be posted from sea if the proposed seismic survey moves forward.

- Reposted from The Sandpaper, 2/26/15

New webpage details Rutgers’ proposed seismic study


New flood map open house

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), FEMA Region II will be hosting two public meetings to present the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) for comments and appeals. The FIRM determines the insurance rates for the National Flood Insurance program. These meetings will begin our 90 day appeals period prior to FEMA issuing a Letter of Final Determination (LFD). The LFD initiates the 6 month adoption period before the new maps become effective. All appeals will be resolved prior to LFDEffective FIRMs become the basis for community floodplain management and insurance requirements.

The first meeting will be conducted at the Ocean County Complex, Cafeteria, 129, Hooper Avenue, Toms River,NJ 08754 on February 25, 2015 from 4:00PM until 8:00 PM The second meeting will be conducted at the Ocean County Southern Service Center (OCSSC) 179 South Main Street, Manahawkin, NJ 08050 on February 26, 2015 from 4:00 PM until 8:00 PM.

New flood map open house 

 


Photos of cold and snow gripping LBI

 

t600-Cold Frozen Bench 2

The recent cold temperatures and snow have everyone thinking about the warm days of summer that are surely just around the corner – aren’t they?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A bench and the railings in Barnegat Light are covered in ice. (Photo by: Ryan Morrill)

A bench and the railings in Barnegat Light are covered in ice. (Photo by: Ryan Morrill)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ice in Barnegat Inlet (Photo by: Ryan Morrill)

Ice in Barnegat Inlet (Photo by: Ryan Morrill)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An ice machine at Lighthouse Marina in Barnegat Light seems right at home at the ice-covered docks. (Photo by: Ryan Morrill)

Even this crow doesn’t look amused by the winter weather. (Photo by: Ryan Morrill)

Even this crow doesn’t look amused by the winter weather. (Photo by: Ryan Morrill)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fifth Street in Beach Haven. (Photo by: Ryan Morrill)

Geese and ducks gather around open water in Barnegat Light. (Photo by: Ryan Morrill)

Geese and ducks gather around open water in Barnegat Light. (Photo by: Ryan Morrill)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lone Canada goose seems to stand watch over the sleeping mallard ducks. (Photo by: Ryan Morrill)

A lone Canada goose seems to stand watch over the sleeping mallard ducks. (Photo by: Ryan Morrill)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bay bathing beach in Harvey Cedars. (Photo by: Ryan Morrill)

The bay bathing beach in Harvey Cedars. (Photo by: Ryan Morrill)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A dock near the Harvey Cedars Yacht Club is festooned with hanging ice. (Photo by: Ryan Morrill)

A dock near the Harvey Cedars Yacht Club is festooned with hanging ice. (Photo by: Ryan Morrill)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A solitary channel marker is all that can be seen in the vast expanse of the frozen bay. (Photo by: Ryan Morrill)

A solitary channel marker is all that can be seen in the vast expanse of the frozen bay. (Photo by: Ryan Morrill)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow covered dunes in Surf City near Third Street after Monday night’s snow. (Photo by: Ryan Morrill)

Snow covered dunes in Surf City near Third Street after Monday night’s snow. (Photo by: Ryan Morrill)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The snow meets the ocean in Surf City. (Photo by: Ryan Morrill)

The snow meets the ocean in Surf City. (Photo by: Ryan Morrill)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Empty, snow-covered Surf City beach Tuesday morning. (Photo by: Ryan Morrill)

Empty, snow-covered Surf City beach Tuesday morning. (Photo by: Ryan Morrill)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow-covered dunes in Surf City near Third Street. (Photo by: Ryan Morrill)

Snow-covered dunes in Surf City near Third Street. (Photo by: Ryan Morrill)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Reposted from The Sandpaper, 2/17/15

Photos of cold and snow gripping LBI 

 

 


BL gets “phenomenal” rate on money borrowed

Barnegat Light borough refinanced its municipal debt and was able to obtain a financing rate of .68 percent, which is down from last year’s rate of 1.03 percent.

The “phenomenal rate” on the borough’s $1.198 million in bond anticipation notes was reported by Chief Financial Officer Kathleen Flanagan.

PNC Bank was the successful bidder among 26 bidders contacted.

In other matters, the recent water main break at 11th Street and Long Beach Boulevard is repaired, township officials said at the Feb. 11 monthly borough council meeting. Resident Connie Higgins thanked the borough public works crews who were on the job in freezing conditions.

Repaving over the dirt-covered site will be done after the ground thaws, said Borough Administrator/Clerk Gail Wetmore. Meanwhile, the spot in the right lane of traffic is barricaded.

Discussing the Island-wide free bus shuttle service, Barnegat Light Borough Council members who have been in touch with Long Beach Township officials reported that the township is looking into getting grants to fund the bus so that towns would not have to be asked to contribute the $10,000 each that was requested last year.

After the meeting, The SandPaper contacted township Mayor Joseph Mancini by email to inquire, and Mancini wrote, “We still need municipal support this year and hopefully this will be the last.”

Long Beach Township administers the shuttle bus program that was started in conjunction with the Long Beach Island Chamber of Commerce. No further discussion on the shuttle took place at the February meeting.

In his Docks and Harbors Committee report, Councilman Ed Wellington said there are still four boat slips available at the municipal dock on West 10th Street.

Thirty-two municipal slips are leased from April 1 through Dec. 1 at a fee of $2,000. Those interested may call borough hall at 609-494-9196 or stop in at Borough Hall, 10 East Seventh St. Borough Hall hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.  to 3:30 p.m.

Relating to preparation of the 2015 municipal budget, a bit of good news came in last month when beach badge revenues from last summer exceeded the amount that had been anticipated. The sales of almost $232,000 worth of badges was almost $30,000 over what had been anticipated, reported Councilwoman Dottie Reynolds, Beaches Committee chairwoman.

“However, it was less than 2013, which was less than 2012. Our sales are going down but really not enough to affect the budget,” added the summary in the meeting minutes.

In his committee report on police and public safety at the February meeting, Councilman Frank Mikuletzky advised residents to lock their vehicle doors.

“There was a little bit of activity in High Bar Harbor,” he said. “Somebody called, and that’s how they caught them.”

A recent report on 2014 activity from the Long Beach Township Police Department, which patrols Barnegat Light by contract, showed police responding to 3,277 calls in Barnegat Light, of which 1,612 were property checks. Traffic stops numbered 532, and there were 10 car accidents, three driving under the influence arrests and 10 warrant arrests, among other activity. Police responded to 101 first aid calls and 27 fire calls.

The Long Beach Island emergency information brochure has been added to the website of the Barnegat Light Taxpayers’ Association, BLTA officer John Tennyson said. The public can find it at barnegatlighttaxpayer.org under the heading newsletter and resources.”

The outline of procedures and resources in the event of a disaster was published by the Offices of Emergency Management of the six Long Beach Island municipalities plus Stafford Township.

BL gets “phenomenal” rate on money borrowed 

- Reposted from The Sandpaper, 2/17/15 


Get news about your neighborhood in real time

newspaper1Want a great way to stay connected to your community? Learn what’s going on in real time directly from your local law enforcement agencies and schools.

Nixle will keep you updated with the news you want by sending alerts right to your email’s in box.  You can sign up for Nixle here and read more about setting it up in this brochure.

For an example of the type of news you can receive, take a look at how it’s used by the Long Beach Township Police Department.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Causeway Bridge Update

t600-Bridge Meeting SB 2Between now and 2020, when the $320 million Causeway Bridge project is done, its progress will be of utmost interest to area residents, who jammed the first of two update meetings held by the state Department of Transportation, in Ship Bottom Feb. 9.

They learned that the new main bridge in the double-span system should be finished in May 2016, at which time traffic will be switched over to that new, southernmost span. In the next phase, the existing 55-year-old Causeway Bridge system alongside it will be rehabilitated, to eventually become the span for westbound traffic.

Another key point of interest was that this spring, traffic flow will be temporarily reduced to one lane during construction. Project officials assured a questioning captain of the Surf City Fire Co. and EMS that two lanes will be restored by Memorial Day.

The travel lanes, when eventually finished, will be 11 feet wide, rather than the existing 12 feet. That is to make room for a 6-foot sidewalk on the westbound side and to build bicycle accommodations. The design calls for wider outside shoulders on the twin Manahawkin Bay Bridges and 6-foot bike lanes on the trestle bridges.

“Are you going to give driving lessons?” one woman quipped as she spoke with a project manager, Pankesh Patel, after the meeting.

The shoulders are also designed to act as a third lane in an emergency or evacuation, under project plans.

“Once it is all done, we’ll have two lanes on the new bridge heading eastbound, and two lanes on the existing rehabilitated bridge heading westbound,” Patel summarized the 2020 result.

As a quick review, the Route 72 Manahawkin Bay Bridges Project involves the construction of a new structure parallel to and south of the existing Manahawkin Bay Bridge, rehabilitation of the existing Manahawkin Bay Bridge, and the rehabilitation of three trestle bridges over Hilliards Thorofare, East Thorofare and West Thorofare.

Folks came out in a rain-spitting wind to hear the details that centered on the upcoming phase of rehabilitating the East and West Thorofares. The improvements include pier cap rehabilitation, bearing retrofits, piling protection systems, new parapets, and repairing and resurfacing the bridge decks. That phase is scheduled to be finished in July 2017.

Anyone who did not get to the 2 p.m. informational meeting in Ship Bottom Borough Hall early did not get a seat and had to wait until a repeat afternoon briefing was given.

“It’s standing room only, and there’s no room to stand,” announced one in a line of residents who decided to leave and either “read about it in the paper” or attend the evening session in Stafford Township.

Patel and other project managers, engineers and representatives said the project is on schedule, and they gave details of the multi-phased construction.

“In May 2016, we switch the traffic onto the new bridge – and it may happen earlier, too – so, once we have the traffic detoured onto the new bridge, we’ll take the superstructure of the existing bridge off and replace it with a new, brand new superstructure,” he said.

“That includes rehabilitating the existing bay bridge along with Hilliards Thorofare.”

A detailed project description can be found by going to the DOT website at www.state.nj.us/transportation/ and typing “Manahawkin Bay Bridges Project” in the search line at the top right. Patel pointed out that the site includes photo galleries with detailed descriptions.

Currently foundations are being built in the water and on the adjacent shore for the new, parallel Manahawkin Bay Bridge. The 16 hammerhead piers to support the new bridge are nearly complete, with only minor finishing work remaining. Cofferdams have been installed in the water to allow work to progress in the dry work zone within the cofferdams.

Among other commenters, Barnegat Light resident Shirley Alnutt raised an issue about “very poor” lighting making navigation at night difficult through the curving work zone. She was told to submit that concern in writing on one of the comment sheets that were at the sign-in desk. Project spokesperson Martine Culbertson said reflectors are one option being considered.

Storm flooding conditions in Ship Bottom on Eighth and Ninth streets were raised by another questioner. Engineers said a pump station is one of the remedies being considered, but that end phase of the project “is still in the design stages.”

Mainland Aspects

Covered at Evening Meeting

At the evening meeting in Stafford Township, discussion included environmental mitigations on the Cedar Bonnet Island section that are needed to comply with environmental permit conditions for the entire project. The DOT, in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is restoring a previous dredge disposal facility at the Cedar Bonnet Island unit of the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. That phase of the work was also referred to as “Contract 5.”

It will include wetland creation, mitigation of freshwater wetlands, intertidal/subtidal shallows and riparian impacts. Also included are public access improvements such as public parking and new interpretive pedestrian walking trails to provide improved access to the refuge and give residents and visitors additional passive recreation and tourism enhancements.

In addition, two storm water basins would be retrofitted.

Steve Balzano of Parsons Brinckerhoff, the bridge project design engineering firm, said that construction should begin within a month. The target time for completion is December 2017, Patel said.

“It will be an attractive-looking area that people can enjoy,” said Balzano, who said the project would cost $7 million. “There is going to be a 20-foot-high observation area which will give people a great view of Long Beach Island. We will also be planting a lot of shrubs and trees. There will be pavilions and benches.”

Holgate resident Tom Beaty had questioned this part of the bridge project at the Ship Bottom meeting.

“It seems not enough thought is going into the maintenance of the mitigation project. To spend millions of dollars to rebuild 40 acres of landscaping and have no maintenance plan is ridiculous,” he summarized later. “Thousands of trees will die, and it will look horrible and be a waste of money. Fish and Wildlife has no staff for this project. This needs to be addressed!”

Attendees with detailed concerns were told to write them on the comment sheets that were available on the sign-in table.

In other information brought up at the Stafford evening meeting, Route 72 will be widened by an extra eastbound and westbound lane by the Marsha Drive intersection. The new lanes will be approximately 700 feet long.

“We’re doing that to make it easier for the cars to stack up in traffic, since during the summer that is a very busy intersection” said Joseph Mumber, chief bridge engineer for Parsons Brinckerhoff. “It will create a better traffic flow and will make it easier for cars to maneuver if they want to turn off.”

Stafford resident Nancy Fiamingo was concerned about pedestrian walkways heading west on the bridges to the mainland. She said because there was not enough room to safely build them along Route 72, the sidewalks would have to be built in Beach Haven West along Steven Drive, which closely runs parallel to the highway.

“Those sidewalks would have to be built by the township, and that would be at the taxpayers’ expense,” she said. “There isn’t any safe place to put them along Route 72, so this will be an additional tax burden for us.”

Mumber said because of safety conditions, there is no other alternative.

“I think people don’t like the idea of more people walking in their community,” he said.

Stafford resident Sal Sorce said the age of the bridge made the project inevitable.

“But no matter what work you do, you still have the problem of the bottleneck in Ship Bottom,” he said. “The bottom line is that all the cars going over the bridge to the Island will be backing up on Route 72 on weekends during the summer. No matter what they do with the bridges, the Ship Bottom situation isn’t going to change because you’re still going to have a lot of traffic.”

- Reposted from The Sandpaper, 2/10/15 



Rising sea level poses high risk along back bays

Construction to ease flooding on causeway into Sea Isle City, 2/2/15

Construction to ease flooding on causeway into Sea Isle City, 2/2/15

The bayside along New Jersey’s barrier island communities is one of nine high-risk areas for flooding along the North Atlantic coast, according to the findings of a new federal study.

The study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a response to Hurricane Sandy, looked at 31,200 miles of coastal, backbay and estuarine areas in 10 states from Virginia into New England, plus Washington, D.C., before picking the nine most susceptible areas in the future.

The study, which also identified the Delaware Bay as an area of risk, delves into the impact from sea levels that are already rising, with many predicting the pace will accelerate over the next century.

The study looked at four sea-level rise scenarios with three time horizons: 2018, 2068 and 2100. Under the worst scenario, Atlantic City would see seas rise by almost 3 feet by 2068 and more than 5 feet by 2100. The levels in Cape May would be only slightly lower, while Sandy Hook would be higher at 7.1 feet by 2100.

While the study said dune systems on the ocean side could conceivably handle such increases, the backbay areas don’t have such protection.

“The back bays in several of the areas become highlighted as high-risk areas particularly with sea level rise. These areas are already low. The challenge is flooding could come from multiple directions,” said Amy Guise, the chief of the Army Corps command center in Baltimore that drafted the report.

The study looked specifically at Long Beach Island in Ocean County, noting that even with a 6-foot sea level rise, the dune system could be maintained to keep the ocean at bay. The west side of the island was a bigger concern. Just a 1-foot increase in sea level means storms that now bring in backbay waters and flood 20 percent of the roads would suddenly flood 70 percent of the roads. The average depth of that water would increase from 1 foot to about 4 feet.

“At a 3-foot sea level rise, the road network becomes unusable,” the study says.

The study looks at numerous ways to deal with rising sea levels, including bulkheads, seawalls, levees, elevation of homes and roads, dunes, breakwaters, living shorelines made of natural materials, groins, deployable floodwalls, reefs and many others. Some ideas could be combined, such as putting a cap of living marine life on the top and sides of bulkheads.

“Some communities looking out 20 years or more may consider strategic retreat and relocating people to higher ground. Each community has to evaluate which measures will work for them,” Guise said.

The study will help the Army Corps identify its priorities, but Guise said it is also meant to be used by other agencies, including transportation departments, community planners, emergency managers and elected officials.

U.S. Rep Frank Pallone, D-6th, who helped secure the $20 million in funding for the two-year study under a 2013 disaster-relief appropriation related to Hurricane Sandy, said it should provide tools to help communities better prepare.

“I am hopeful that this report will help federal, state and local governments mitigate the adverse effects of future disasters. The study builds on lessons we learned from Superstorm Sandy and allows officials to use the latest science and tools to ensure that coastal communities are resilient to the impacts of climate change, as well as future storms,” Pallone said.

The study includes a nine-step planning process on how to identify risky areas and plan a strategy to reduce that risk. There appears to be plenty of room for improvement. Storm mitigation measures, according to the study, did help avert $1.9 billion in losses from Sandy, but the Oct. 29, 2012, storm still caused $65 billion in damages.

New Jersey has a dune system on the ocean side mostly due to projects initiated by the Army Corps. The study summarizes those projects with only a few glaring areas left unprotected, including the stretch from Cape May Inlet to Hereford Inlet and several Delaware Bay towns including Reeds Beach, Pierce’s Point and the Villas. Projects have been proposed for those areas, but none has reached the construction phase.

The study says global sea levels are rising by 1.7 millimeters per year, but this is expected to accelerate over the next century due to warmer ocean waters and melting polar ice. The study notes the rate of sea level rise is higher in some areas because the land is also sinking.

The shore has more than twice the global rate of sea level rise due to land subsidence caused by groundwater withdrawals and post-glacial sinking.

To learn more, check out the study at http://www.nad.usace.army.mil/compstudy

- Reposted from Press of Atlantic City, 2/2/15 

Photo credit: Sharon Stabley

 

Rising sea level poses high risk along back bays 


Enjoy photos of the ocean world

Anyone interested in discovering the underwater world from a new perspective is invited to spend this weekend’s “Science Saturday” at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences with local diver and underwater photographer Kurt Williams.

“The ocean world is filled with beauty and wonder,” Amy Carreño, LBIF’s director of public programs, said in a press release. “Experience the treasures Kurt captures in his photographs,” she urged.

Science Saturday, hosted at the LBIF for nine consecutive winters, highlights interactive lectures on topics regarding today’s most vital scientific, environmental and sustainability matters.

This Saturday’s presentation will be held in the LBIF’s main building, located at 120 Long Beach Blvd. in Loveladies, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Breakfast treats will be provided by a Little Bite of Italy.

Admittance is free for LBIF members. All others are asked to donate $5.

For more information, call 609-494-1241 or visit lbifoundation.org or LBIF’s Facebook page

- Reposted from The Sandpaper, 1/26/15 

Note: You can view LBIF’s Calendar of Events on our Newsletter & Resources page.

Enjoy photos of the ocean world 


Wetlands development in Holgate angers residents

-e7244a02bb51b332A parcel of sandy beach once considered wetlands on Long Beach Island is a step closer to being developed – or preserved – after a local governing board approved a preliminary subdivision of the tract filled in by Hurricane Sandy.

The approval of the plan submitted by developer Mark Davies at Wednesday’s land use board meeting in Long Beach Township upset residents who packed the room to voice their concerns over the potential for loosing a cherished wildlife sanctuary and increasing storm flooding.

Davies, who does much of his business on Long Beach Island, has said he wants to sell the 6.5-acre parcel between Rosemma and Beck avenues in the township’s Holgate section for preservation. The Trust for Public Lands has expressed interest in buying it, but the national non-profit would need to know that the tract is approved for development first, Davies said.

Many Holgate residents, however, don’t trust that the property will be preserved. They fear that if the sale to the trust falls through, Davies will build houses where marshes now stand.

“Although I believe Mr. Davies has good intentions, this by no means guarantees this will be the outcome,” said Tom Beaty, vice president of the Holgate Taxpayers Association,

The 6.5-acre parcel, which includes 2.2 acres filled in by Sandy, is among a larger tract of wetlands along the bay the trust is considering buying. That sale and final site plan approval by the land use board, however, hinges on whether the state Department of Environmental Protection officially removes the designation of those 2.2 acres as wetlands. The DEP has already declared those acres suitable for building.

More than 100 Holgate residents turned out at Wednesday night’s land use board meeting to urge members not to approve Davies’ development plans. Several residents based their arguments on their concerns over losing a natural area that attracts birds, especially endangered species.

Kyle Gronostajski, executive director of the Long Beach Island-based environmental advocacy group Alliance for a Living Ocean, said that although Davies’ plan is “respectable,” it doesn’t assure the wetlands will be protected.

“This land is very valuable to wildlife,” he said.

But board chairwoman Lynne Schnell said board members can’t take preservation into consideration when deciding whether to give initial approval to the project. She said members can only base their decisions on whether Davies has met all the requirements for developing the site. At times, she engaged in shouting matches with residents who complained their environmental concerns haven’t been addressed.

“We’re not just idiots sitting on this board,” she snapped at one point to a resident who accused board members of not acting in the best interest of the community.

E. Joseph Hummel was the only no vote among the eight votes.

Hummel said the board should have waited to consider Davies’ plan, which he said was incomplete because it was contingent on too many conditions, such as the DEP ruling.

“We should not have moved forward,” he said. “It’s premature. We’ve caused quite a ruckus in our town.”

But because the board had already heard the presentation, failure to take a vote would have resulted in automatic approval, Schnell said.

At Davies’ request, the DEP surveyed the area last summer. In November, the environmental agency issued an initial determination that those 2.2 acres filled in by Sandy should no longer be classified as wetlands. To do that, the DEP would have to revise its coastal wetlands maps. A proposal to make that revision is pending with the DEP but a public hearing on the issue has not yet been set.

Davies said he submitted the plans before any final DEP determination to expedite matters.

Other residents said development of the site would exacerbate an existing flooding problem on Long Beach Boulevard there.

Doug Shearer, who lives across from the wetlands, said they saved his home from severe flooding during Sandy. Instead of the 4 feet of water that inundated other houses in the area, his home had 6 inches of water, he said.

Davies’ initial plan called for 12 lots – one of which would not be developed and three others that would need variances – on the site. But at the meeting, he submitted a second plan, which subdivided the 6.5 acres into 16 lots, three of which would remain as open space and one that could be used for anything the township wanted.

In both plans, the lots suitable for development would be for single-family homes.

Davies said he has a preliminary agreement with the Trust for Public Land to sell the organization the 6.5 acres. He would not disclose a sale price with the trust nor would he disclose the contract price for him to buy the site.

The parcel is owned by members of the Colmer family, who bought the property in 1950 for $5,750, Davies said.

After the Great Storm of 1962, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took fill from the Colmer site to fill in a breach of the island after the storm with the promise that the Colmer property would be made whole, Davies said.

But that never happened and the family held onto the wetlands property for decades until Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 deposited tons of sand from the beach onto the tract, filling in much of what the Army Corps had removed.

- Reposted from NJ.com, 1/16/15 

Wetlands development in Holgate angers residents 


Fishermen want better fish counts

Fishermen are looking for better management of sea bass by fishery regulators after another winter closure of the fishery.

“We are for conservation and regulations, but this is getting out of control,” said boat captain Howard Bogan, whose family owns and operates the 125-foot Jamaica, the largest party boat in the state.

Black sea bass used to support a winter recreational fishery in fishing towns including Brielle, Point Pleasant Beach and Barnegat Light, but federal closures five of the past six years have put that industry in jeopardy. The causalities are starting to add up.

New Fish Chart

Fish Chart1

Bogan has lost 75 percent of his winter business, and the Eble family in Barnegat Light sold its boat — the Doris Mae IV — and got out of the industry.

“I really wanted to stay in the business another five to 10 years, but National Marine Fishery Service’s rules and regulations are killing us. They’re putting us out of business,” said captain Charlie Eble. “We’re shut down on sea bass. What am I going to fish for from now until spring?”

Eble’s father started the business in 1947.

What gnaws at fishermen is federal fishery regulators did not close down the winter sea bass fishing season because there are too little fish but rather because they don’t have a method to count the recreational winter harvest.

“We have no way of knowing how much fish are being caught. We need to know so we can count them, and when we can’t do that we can’t open the season,” said Moira Kelly, a fishery policy analyst for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Kelly’s job, and that of fishery regulators in general, is not easy. They are tasked by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery and Conservation Act, the federal law governing fisheries, to use the best available science to maintain sustainable fisheries. Many fishermen, however, believe they are not relying on the best science.

“Their data is poor, and it’s destroying fishing businesses and pushing them out of coastal towns,”said Jim Hutchinson Jr., managing director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, a national organization that lobbies for the rights of recreational fishermen.

The livelihood of this coastal state’s $1.7 billion recreational fishing industry, which includes for-hire boats and tackle shops, depends on the accuracy of fish counts. But so does the health of fish stocks.

Kelly said they estimate the spawning stock biomass of sea bass is at about 24.6 million pounds spread over its range from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, to Massachusetts. Of that, only 5.5 million pounds is the acceptable biological catch — defined as the amount of fish that can be safely taken from the ocean without plummeting the stock into an overfished status.

The 5.5 million is divided between recreational and commercial fishermen. The recreational industry gets 51 percent of the catch, while the commercial industry gets 49 percent.

Kelly said there is uncertainty with their data-collection method — called the Marine Recreational Information Program — which uses surveys, random phone calls and dock intercepts to gather how much fish recreational anglers catch.

The MRIP is not available during January and February, Kelly said. Without it, they can’t open a season for fear they would not know until it’s too late whether overfishing is occurring.

Fish Chart 2

chart2

 

 Fish Chart 3

chart3

 

- Reposted from The Asbury Park Press, 1/13/15 

Fishermen want better fish counts