The DEP and the NY/NJ Baykeeper failed in their efforts to find an acceptable location in the Hudson/Raritan estuary for the 50,000 oysters were part of the Keyport Oyster Reef.
The Baykeeper killed the oysters yesterday and disposed of them as solid waste, according to Debbie Mans, Executive Director and Baykeeper.
The organization has entered into discussions with the Navy to initiate a feasibility study to evaluate restarting the Raritan Bay Oyster Restoration Project in the secured waters of the Earle Naval Weapons Station.
While it is regrettable that a non-profit's good work over the last year has been both wasted and thrwarted, DEP did the right thing in this instance. However remote, there was a public health risk from poaching. There was a real economic risk of the Federal government shutting down New Jersey's $790 million shell fish industry.
The new leadership of the DEP, under the leadership of Commissioner Bob Martin, is cleaning up the a mess inherited from the Corzine administration. To their credit, DEP has not said that. That's me connecting the dots.
Corzine's DEP failed the Baykeeper when they issued a permit from the Oyster Restoration Project last September. DEP's enforcement budget for patrolling shell fish waters had already been cut. The USFDA was already scrutinizing and criticising the safety of the NJ shell fish industry. Issuing the Baykeeper a permit to raise oysters in unsecured contaminated waters was irresponsible under those conditions.
Had Corzine's DEP rejected the Keyport location a year ago for lack of security, as it should have, the Baykeeper would be that much closer to having a home for its project at Earle now.
Congressman Frank Pallone's performance in this matter is perfectly consistent with the representation he has provided the 6th congressional district over the last 22 years; long on rhetoric and way too short on results. Another Pallone failure.
When this issue broke at the end of July, Pallone asked DEP Commissioner Martin to delay shutting down the project.
In a letter to Martin, Pallone said, "The illegal actions of a few should not be allowed to jeopardize the ecological integrity of some of our most important coastal waters. To endanger the proven success these programs have had would set a poor example for future initiatives. Oysters clean the ecosystem acting as natural water filters that would otherwise be costly to the state." (emphasis added)
Pallone is telling Martin to put the oyster reef project before public health and before the shell fish industry. Good thing Martin didn't listen.
What has Phoney Palloney done for the ecological integrity of the Raritan Bay in the last 22 years? Talked about it.
What proven success of these programs? This program was less than a year old when it was shut down. It was a good program. I support it. I've given money to the Baykeeper in the past and I will again. But this particular program is not a proven success. Since its inception in 2001, the Keyport project has suffered many set backs. More Phoney Palloney hot air.
Oysters clean the ecosystem acting as natural water filters that would otherwise be costly to the state." What is Pallone even saying here? Does he think Martin doesn't know about how oysters filter water? Does he know about some "costly" clean up program on the state's horizon that will clean up the bay? The man is an embarrassment.
To add insult to injury, Pallone was in Edison, along the Raritan Bay, with Federal EPA Commissioner Lisa Jackson, Corzine's DEP commissioner, on August 3 while the DEP and the Baykeeper were in the midst of their sometimes heated negotiations over the oyster reef project. They were there to tout a $4-$5 million federal investment in 5 trailers that will be "an environmental SWAT team." $1 million per trailer? How do I get in on that deal? Never mind, I'm not contributing to Pallone's campaign coffers.
As the former DEP commissioner under Corzine, Jackson was complicit in defunding the patrolling of the shell fish waters. Pallone has been missing in action with regard to the Raritan Bay ecology for 22 years. Rather than tell Martin to give the project some more time under dangerous conditions, Pallone should have been working with the FDA, the EPA and his fellow memebers of congress to at the very least get funding for the patrols. As a federal representative, why didn't Pallone contact the Navy to broker a solution with Earle? He left that to State Senator Joe Kyrillos.
Kyrillos is to be commended for stepping up and reaching out to the Navy for a solution. Given the red tape required at all levels of government, especially federal, to get anything done, it is no surprise that the Navy could not move swiftly enough to save the current project. Maybe if we had a congressman who really cared and had some clout, the red tape could have been cut. For now we can hope that Earle will be a secure future home to oyster reefs.
Mayor Anna Little is also to be commended for her efforts to provide solutions rather than hot air to the problem. As a Bayshore Mayor, she more than most appreciates the importance to the bay's ecology to our region. She remains in contact with DEP and is advocating for the restoration of the bay.