While hundreds prepared to rally on Wednesday in opposition to a seismic blasting study set to begin off the Jersey shore as early as this weekend, Governor Chris Christie and officials with the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced they plan on suing the federal government to stop the blasting.
Just before 5 p.m. on July 2nd, as scores of fishermen, business owners, environmental activists and legislators gathered in Barnegat Light to begin an organized town meeting in opposition to the federal government’s approved ocean seismic testing plan being coordinated by Rutgers University, organizers received a welcome bit of news from Trenton.
“I want to reassure you that the issue of seismic testing off the New Jersey coast is of great importance to the Christie Administration and the DEP,” wrote DEP commissioner Bob Martin in an email alert to organizers just prior to the official rally. “Amy Cradic, from the Governor’s Office, and I have been coordinating efforts on this important issue.”
“As you know the DEP has submitted formal public comment in the Federal Register opposing the timing of the seismic testing program, which was approved by the federal government earlier this week,” Martin said.
“We also have raised the issue in formal letters to NOAA and other federal agencies, and remain disappointed that they have denied the state’s request for a Federal Consistency Determination regarding these activities, which will impact New Jersey’s marine resources,” the letter continued.
“As a result, the Christie Administration is prepared to take legal action in federal court to seek judicial intervention in this matter,” Martin noted, while adding “We are now in the process of preparing legal papers to seek injunctive relief in the courts. We intend to file the legal papers tomorrow (Thursday).”
For the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), Clean Ocean Action, United Boatmen, Marine Trades Association, New Jersey Beach Buggy Association, Jersey Coast Anglers Association, and a host of other groups standing in opposition to ocean blasting off the Jersey Shore, the announcement by the Christie administration was terrific news.
“NOAA has simply refused to listen to constituents, and the President himself has ignored any opportunity to discuss the serious impacts that this federally approved seismic testing plan would have on our coastal communities and marine life in particular,” said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. “We commend Governor Christie, again, for standing up for coastal fishermen by standing up to bad federal government policies.”
Earlier this week NOAA Fisheries granted the official permit to Rutgers University, the University of Texas and the National Science Foundation to begin the seismic testing plan which incorporates high-energy, seismic blasting by way of four- and eight-airgun arrays mounted on a large research vessel that produce sound levels of up to 253 decibels fired in an alternating sequence every 5 seconds, 24 hours a day.
The testing was set to begin in early June, but NOAA Fisheries was given extra time to review the testing proposal since it would allow harassment and harm to marine life including whales and turtles which otherwise would be forbidden by federal law.
“When you think that one piping plover egg can shut down a surfcasting location for two months or that a fishing vessel can’t even get remotely close to a surfacing whale without getting heavily fined, yet this study somehow got the federal approval needed to harass hundreds and hundreds of protected species, it’s staggering,” said Donofrio.
In his letter, DEP commissioner Martin noted how the timing of this planned study to create a 3-D map of sediments from millions of years ago will be detrimental to various marine species that migrate and breed off the New Jersey coast and will negatively impact the local fishing industry, and said how the Christie administration is “hopeful that, at the very least, this initiative will be rescheduled for a less impactful time of year.”
“The fishing is terrific out there right now,” Donofrio told CBS news out of Philadelphia on Wednesday, adding “they could study the million-year-old rocks in the winter. I’m pretty sure they’ll still be there.”