‘State of the Shore’ Event Signals Start of 2018 Beach Season in New Jersey

May 30, 2018

Summer has unofficially begun – and the Jersey Shore is officially ready for the busy months ahead. At the N.J. Sea Grant Consortium’s 16th annual State of the Shore event last week in Asbury Park, the N. J. Department of Environmental Protection provided a status report on the state’s beaches, water quality and other coastal issues.

As DEP Acting Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe said during the event, held prior to Memorial Day weekend each year, “New Jersey has long been a leader in protecting water quality at our beaches because of a strong state and local cooperative monitoring partnership that is second to none in the nation.

“We look forward to another great beach season and remain committed to ensuring all of our coastal resources – so important to the state’s identity and economic vitality – remain protected for all of us to enjoy.”

The shore, said the department, is the backbone of N.J.’s $44 billion tourism economy.

To safeguard water quality and public health, the DEP coordinates the Cooperative Coastal Monitoring Program, a joint state and local partnership that tests water quality at nearly 190 ocean beaches and 31 bay and river beaches across the state throughout the season.

Closures at N.J. beaches are rare, and, when they do occur, they are typically related to rainy weather and stormwater runoff that carries bacteria in waste from gulls and other birds into bodies of water. During the 2017 summer season, 97 percent of the approximately 3,400 water samples collected met the state’s recreational bathing standard.

Coastal surveillance flights – which operate six days a week from mid-May to mid-September – have resumed as part of the overall water quality protection effort. Weather permitting, trained DEP staff use these flights to look for excessive algae blooms or debris that might affect water quality.

To follow the flight path of the coastal surveillance plane, visit njdep.rutgers.edu/aircraft.

In N.J., water samples cannot exceed 104 colonies of enterococci bacteria per 100 milliliters. A local health agency will issue a swimming advisory if an initial sample exceeds the state standard. Beaches are then closed if the affected waters continue to exceed the standard during testing the following day. Closings remain in effect until subsequent sampling indicates levels again meet the standard.

Up-to-date information on water sampling is available at njbeaches.org.

Also during the State of the Shore, McCabe reiterated the state’s opposition to the Trump administration’s plan to open the Atlantic Ocean to oil and gas exploration, and its commitment to using the latest science to develop strategies to adapt coastal areas to sea-level rise resulting from climate change.

And she noted that beaches and dunes are in good shape despite an active winter storm season, in large part due to restoration projects undertaken in conjunction with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. On Long Beach Island, though, replenishment work is just beginning in Harvey Cedars, after which operations will move to Surf City. Town officials are happy to receive the sand; however, the timing is not ideal. (See related story.) —J.K.-H.

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