The Fish Story

Radioactive Pigs Take Over Fukushima; Little Egg Inlet Gets Channel Promise

By JAY MANN | Mar 15, 2017
Photo by: Jack Reynolds Stuck: This Barnegat Bay channel marker seems to have taken off on its own, possibly with high hopes of someday reaching the Caribbean. It made it only as far as nearby shallows, off Barnegat Light. While the latest winter storm, seen here, wasn’t blizzard-grade, it did bandy about buoy-moving winds to nearly 50 mph.

RADIOACTIVE PORKERS: Most of you have never met a wild hog in a highly personal manner. I did, down south Florida way. It was a shocking meet-up, if based only on the fierce, wild-pig sounds that ensued.

I was mountain biking seldom-used paths, moving at a damn decent speed, when I came upon the beast. Anybody who seriously mountain bikes the outback will tell you that bikes are an amazingly stealthy way to slide up on unsuspecting wildlife.

This boar was enormous – and hairy and tusky and highly pissed off … with glowing red eyes! I kid you not … glowing red. It had taken instant umbrage at my quietly invasive arrival, though it was an equal-opportunity freak-out for both of us.

Before I could do much more than stand up in the saddle, feet on the pedals, it charged me, making noises more commonly associated with the diabolical down-below region. No, I didn’t add my own sounds. Even when thoroughly spooked, I seldom make a peep. I will gasp to high heaven.

I might actually be exaggerating the “charge” thing a tad. It was closer to both of us concurrently meeting on a one-pig/one-person-wide pathway. The boar’s forward progress was probably more of a terrified effort to simply get past me.

As I later learned, that thing could have torn me limb from limb, or so I was told by nearby farmers.

My solution to avoiding further boarish interaction? Let’s just say they were soon calling me “the singing biker.” Now, that’s a sound able to stave off any trail-hugging pigs.

Anyway, the ugly ominousness of wild boars has taken on a strange new glow in and around Fukushima – unhappy home to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which was rocked to its core, literally, during Japan’s March 2011 earthquake.

In the wake of a radioactive evacuation of human residents in and around the plant, feral pigs from nearby woodlands and mountains began rooting around just-abandoned towns. They soon owned the streets. News service photos show hundreds of them nonchalantly strolling deserted streets.

Recently, Fukushima evacuees have been given the green light to return to their once-beloved, formerly pig-free hometowns. However, tens of thousands former residents won’t return out of very real feral pig concerns. Animal behaviorists are warning that the wild pigs, after dominating the landscape for so long, could be unusually aggressive, in a territorial manner. “This here town ain’t big enough for the two of us, partner.”

Why aren’t the Japanese just running in and killing off the hairy invaders? That was my first sophomoric reaction, too. Bring on the hunters. Hell, we could lend them Ted Nugent.

Turns out that Japanese shooters have long been lowering the boom on the beasts, in a high-caliber manner. And they haven’t put a bloody dent in the pig population. Huh? How many frickin radioactive pigs can there be thereabouts? Get this: Folks returning to just the smallish town of Tomioka have already cleared their streets of 800 boars. In just a few years, the regional kill has gone over 3,000 not-so-little piggies. That’s a lotta bacon, dude – which no one will be dining upon, hopefully.

The Fukushima swine contain the radioactive element caesium-137 at rates 300 times higher than safety standards. That serves up a potential problem, considering boar meat is a delicacy in northern Japan. An abiding fear is that some of the bullet-softened glow-pig meat will worm its way into the nation’s mainstream tartare realm – tartare being the meaty equivalent of sashimi.

So, good luck to all you returning Fukushima-ites. Here’s hoping you add a whole new meaning to pig-out. Also, I have Ted’s number at the ready.

DYK?: Back in the 1940s there were wild boar in Southern Ocean County. I got this first-hand from an old hunter, who had proof-apparent hanging upon an entire cabin wall. It was loaded with major boar heads, allegedly from “right out back.” This was the Barnegat/Waretown area. Of course, this wonderful old chap could spin a yarn with the best of them.

As for any current SOC wild pigs … t’aint none, I guarantee. Of all the creatures that roam the woods, nothing leaves more of a mark in the earth than pigs. I’d know if so much as a piglet was nosing around out there – while I’d be highly inclined to bring it home and make a pet of it. (Just kidding, Ship Bottom.)

LITTLE EGG INLET MATTERS: What do you call an inlet without an outlet? While you’re working on that, I’ll note that the NJDEP types have climbed their decently salaried stallions and are seemingly hauling ass to the Little Egg Inlet (LEI) rescue, with the “William Tell Overture” in the background.

As you know, the Army Corps recently removed all the aids to navigation within that inlet, leaving it as a massive, unmarked stretch of very spooky water. The state wants to build a channel on its own – before summer!

Per a state news release: “At the direction of Commissioner Bob Martin, the Division of Coastal Engineering is developing permit applications, design plans and contract specifications with the expectation of going out to bid for the multimillion-dollar project next month.

“This (inlet) situation has become critical so we are moving forward, using state money, to dredge the channel and make it safe again for everyone who needs this vital access for fishing and recreation,” Martin said. “We need to take action to get this channel dredged for the safety and enjoyment of the public this summer season.”

The proof is in the putting, i.e. until I see them putting up dredging-related beach signs, I’m a doubter. I’ll also be joyfully stunned when dredge pipes begin humming, or whatever sounds they make.

WHY THERE, WHY NOW?: It’s all been thought before … and not that many moons ago. Using LEI sands to shore up the beaches of southern LBI seems to be a match made in replenishment heaven. But the devil is in the details.

One devilish detail is quite ironic: Where to put all that inlet sand. The situation is one of those sand carts in front of the horse things. I’ll explain.

Usually, beaches become sand-starved and in dire need of being saved, via replenishment. To save the beach day, the powers-that-be secure gobs of funding. The Army Corps is then ordered to run out and find sand sources. But if this LEI dredging plan runs the permit-gathering gamut, the sand acquisition comes first, followed by a hearty “OK, so who wants this stuff?”

To be sure, Long Beach Township (with Holgate in mind) and Beach Haven will jump in, all “Ooh, Ooh … we’ll take it!” Then both the cart and horse are off and running ... but to the beat of what drummer?

To date, the Corps, in partnership with the state of New Jersey, has nourished LBI beaches and dunes in an orderly and highly exacting dimensional manner. Might a significantly large state pump remain true to the Corps’ thinking – or might a harried pump somehow screw up the life and times of our delicious, long-term (50-year) beach-fix contract with the feds?

I bring this up in growing fear of the man with the hideous comb-over, now spooking the world from the Oval Office. That dude is already showing he’s willing to welsh on even long-standing DC promises.

That politicking aside, the Corps has always welcomed LBI towns wanting to make tweaks to replen beaches and dunes. Acceptable methods include mechanical/bulldozer repairs, trucked-in sand, or personally paying already on-scene dredge companies, like Great Lakes Dredging. Harvey Cedars has already used that last method.

The talented minds at ACE will surely offer insights on keeping an LEI-to-LBI sand dredge kosher, while staying in full compliance with the D.C.-promised Barnegat Inlet to Little Egg Inlet Coastal Storm Risk Management project.

NO DAMAGE, DUDE: I refuse to believe the channel-making sand removal from the inlet would diminish from its pristine nature. As I’m reading it, pristine simply means there are no jetties, seawalls or hard structures, i.e. any manmade things to alter the natural ebb and flow of tidal things.

The question will arise: Will this initial dredging of a reliable LEI channel lead to a need to repeatedly remove sand for years/decades to come? Absofrickinlutely! It’s the same as every other inlet along every U.S. coastline. It’s a repeatable defense.

Could Little Egg Inlet’s ongoing lack of hard structures mean sand will return more rapidly than occurs within other jettied inlets? No, and yes.

Jetty-marked inlets all gather sand in nothing flat. A prime and applicable example is Barnegat Inlet.

At the same time, the ongoing erosion of Holgate will continue to carry massive amounts of on-the-move sand into the LEI system. This amount of sand is likely unique to LEI.

More ethereally, there’s no guessing what happens when a manmade channel is dredged through a wild and unfettered inlet. I’m guessing the oft-angry inlet won’t take kindly to it.

MAKING LEI MATTERS BETTER … OR NOT: A prime contributor to LEI’s steady sand slide is the erosion of the beachline adjacent to the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, Holgate Wilderness Area.

My thinking: Rebuild that beach and there will then be straight-line erosion along all LBI – north to south, from Loveladies to LEI. Once reaching the Island’s far south end, the littoral-drift sands would naturally move onto the inlet’s outside shoals. Those shoals would make for a renewable sand source, becoming a never-ending borrow zone for replenishing beaches on the south end of LBI. If that’s not a match made in replenishment heaven …

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