June 30, 2007

Beach sweeper strays, killing endangered bird

Asbury Park Press, 6/30/2007
Beach sweeper strays, killing endangered bird

State and federal officials are investigating the death of an endangered piping plover chick found Sunday in a Sea Girt beach-raking machine, officials said Friday.

It is the “first incident of its kind confirmed in New Jersey in recent memory,” said Darlene Yuhas, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Another plover chick is missing, and the plovers’ parents evidently abandoned the nest, which had an egg in it, Yuhas said.

“We feel terrible that . . . this bird was killed,” said Sea Girt Borough Councilman Raymond D. Bogan.

The mayor and Borough Council have directed the public works department to investigate what happened and “take whatever corrective measures are necessary and make sure it doesn’t occur again,” Bogan said.

The DEP has issued Sea Girt a notice for violating a coastal permit and “they likely face . . . additional enforcement action, but we’re still assessing what that will be,” Yuhas said.

The piping plover incident follows efforts by the DEP, volunteers and others to re-establish and protect a beach nesting area for plovers and endangered least terns on the boundary of Sea Girt and Spring Lake near Wreck Pond.

The site, a disappointment last year, has been very active this year.

“I am greatly saddened by the situation,” says an e-mail from Nancy Maclearie-Hayduk of Spring Lake Heights, a volunteer who oversees other volunteers who monitor the site.

She found the dead chick after searching the debris in the beach rake equipment, her e-mail says.

“In the face of all of the obstacles these (plover) chicks have to overcome, a beach rake should not be one of them,” Maclearie-Hayduk said in her e-mail. “It is little wonder that they are endangered.”

Last year, New Jersey had 116 pairs of piping plovers, according to Yuhas.

Plovers are the size of robins and blend in with sand, according to the DEP Web site.

Nearly 1,000 pairs of least terns, which are gray and white and have yellow bills and black-capped heads, were spotted in 2002, according to the DEP Web site.

Law enforcement officials in the DEP Division of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s New Jersey Field Office in Pleasantville are investigating the plover incident and coordinating efforts, Yuhas said.

Under DEP coastal rules, mechanical raking is not allowed from April 1 to Aug. 15 in beach areas designated as endangered bird nesting areas, she said.

The DEP reminded Sea Girt about the raking restrictions in a June 6 memo, Yuhas said.

In her e-mail, Maclearie-Hayduk said she “had been at the beach the evening before (the Sunday incident) observing the plover chicks.”

“When I arrived in the morning, the first thing I noticed was that the beach was freshly raked,” she said. “After an extensive search of the site, the chicks could not be located. I then searched the debris in the beach rake equipment.”

“The chick was approximately a day old and part of a brood of two chicks,” Yuhas said. “The second chick was also discovered missing but hasn’t been recovered,” and based on brood behavior, “it’s likely that it met . . . the same fate as the recovered dead chick.”

Bogan said “I don’t know what happened to the second bird, and I don’t think it would be responsible for me or anybody else to speculate.”

He understands that the abandonment of the nest happened after the baby plover was found.

The borough has had a policy for some time “in which we don’t go anywhere near the no-rake area,” and it sounds like a public works employee made a mistake, Bogan said.

“It is not a purposeful act,” he said.

The DEP invests “a great deal in protecting these birds . . . and we did issue that memo . . . reminding them of the raking restrictions, so frankly, it’s sad,” Yuhas said, stressing that many volunteers help protect the birds.

This story includes material from previous Asbury Park Press articles.
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June 14, 2007

Historic beach club must be preserved

Asbury Park Press, 6/14/2007
Historic beach club must be preserved

A historic icon of the old Jersey Shore – Takanassee Beach Club, which has benefited the citizens of Long Branch and Monmouth County for generations – could be another priceless coastal site lost.

The Peters family, owners of Takanassee for generations, has provided a priceless public benefit to beachgoers and history buffs. The only way Long Branch could afford to acquire this property would be if Gov. Corzine and the Legislature replenish the Green Acres funding mechanism. My bet is they will.

Silence on this public issue enables and emboldens those who support a developer’s plan to raze the historic structures of Takanassee and build luxury homes. We have enough luxury development on the Long Branch coastline.

When the developer’s lawyers accuse me and other elected officials of using the Takanassee controversy for “political purposes,” they intend to stifle debate and intimidate opposition. They resort to the oldest – and most transparent – lawyerly tactic: Instead of arguing the substance of the issue in dispute, accuse your opponent of having nefarious ulterior motives.

But preservation of Takanassee is my badge of honor. The people of Long Branch elected me to pursue public policies that reflect my commitment to environmental preservation, accountability, transparency and fiscal responsibility in city government.

Politics is nothing more or less than debate and compromise on forming public policy. And public policy is a useful tool to preserve Takanassee from yet another private enclave that deprives the public of recreational opportunities.

So, I hope my colleagues join me to preserve this sliver of history and good old Jersey Shore fun. Should we succeed, we aim to pay an absolutely fair appraisal price to the Peters family, as provided by law.

Brian Unger

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June 7, 2007

Brown tide must be studied as ecosystem failure

Asbury Park Press, 6/7/2007
Brown tide must be studied as ecosystem failure

There is a coastal mayor named Larry Vaughn whose name you probably won’t remember, but you will remember his message. He is the fictional character in the movie “Jaws,” the one who declares that the movie’s tourist-dependent beaches will not be closed on July 4th weekend. We all know what happens next.

Just before the Memorial Day weekend and with little scientific basis, state officials made the prediction that “water quality is expected to be good this summer.” On Memorial Day weekend, a brown algae bloom appeared and stretched from Sandy Hook to Avon, eventually reaching Manasquan after the weekend.

Our coalition of 10 environmental groups pointed out that brown tide is an indicator of poor ecosystem health. Furthermore, we were surprised by the state’s reaction that these algae blooms are normal. State Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa Jackson then admonished the Coastal Ocean Coalition and paid homage to Mayor Vaughn by saying, “It’s just unsettling that they would choose to sensationalize the algae bloom . . . at the start of the beach season.” She then suggested the coalition has an agenda.

We certainly do have an agenda, and we have been bringing it to the Statehouse and the Legislature for almost two years now. It is called ecosystem-based management. It is one of the major recommendations of both the Pew Oceans Commission and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy.

Ecosystem-based management looks at all the links among living and nonliving resources, rather than considering single issues in isolation. Instead of developing a management plan for one issue, it focuses on the multiple activities occurring within specific areas that are defined by ecosystem, rather than political, boundaries.

Ecosystem-based management would move environmental protection away from the practice of managing species by species and using single parameters to determine environmental health. The current system puts environmental programs into “silos,” isolated from all other programs. This is not the way the natural world works. As the grandfather of the environmental movement, John Muir, said, “Tug on anything at all and you’ll find it connected to everything else in the universe.”

Sen. Ellen Karcher, D-Monmouth, is sponsoring a bill, S-2645, that would encourage the state to use ecosystem-based management. It has already been discussed by the Senate Environment Committee. Other states such as New York and California have adopted this approach to managing their coastal resources. It is up to our Legislature to bring this policy to New Jersey, and it is up to the governor to sign it into law. Once enacted, our preparation for and our response to an event like an algae bloom would be much different.

This recent bloom is most likely a sign of an abnormal nutrient load somewhere in the watershed. It illustrates the limitations of the current monitoring system. We are not suggesting that this particular type of algae bloom is harmful to human health. At its worst, it is aesthetically repulsive. But it is potentially harmful to shellfish, bottom-dwelling finfish and marine plants, and that is where the single parameter monitoring system fails.

It is possible that a severe algae bloom like this could send all the tourists and beachgoers packing for other shores, yet the state’s test for one type of harmful bacteria, enterococcus, would declare our water quality good. Ecosystem-based management would recognize that tourists are not the only species residing at the shore. It would employ parameters that actually measure biological conditions along the coast, not surrogate indicators like dissolved oxygen or single purpose parameters like enterocci bacteria. The result would be a more complete picture of coastal health. This would be good for both the tourist economy and the coastal ecosystem.

We would like to bury the spirit of Mayor Vaughn and use an event like an algae bloom to have a frank discussion about the health of our coasts and oceans – even if it is tourist season. But more importantly, with a policy of ecosystem-based management, we would be assured we have the best policy in place to prevent it and deal with it.

John Weber is the Northeast regional manager for the Surfrider Foundation, a member of the Coastal Ocean Coalition.
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April 27, 2007

Sea Bright club OKs access

Asbury Park Press, 4/27/2007
Sea Bright club OKs access

FREEHOLD – Donovan’s Reef Beach Club, one of nine defendants in a beach-access lawsuit, reached a settlement Thursday with the state Attorney General’s Office to allow the public unrestricted access to and use of its Sea Bright beach.

According to Stefanie A. Brand, assistant attorney general in charge of litigation, Donovan’s Reef may charge a “reasonable fee,” in the access agreement.

Peter Yasenchak, attorney for Donovan’s Reef, said the club already provides unlimited access to the public at a cost of $5 per day.

“They never restricted access in the way some of the other beach clubs do,” Yasenchak said.

After further discussion Thursday in state Superior Court Judge Alexander D. Lehrer’s courtroom, the lawsuit moved into the discovery phase.

In the suit, filed in September, the state argues that because private beaches in Sea Bright have been improved by a publicly funded $29 million beach-replenishment project, the general public should have access to them.

According to the suit, the Army Corps of Engineers replenished the borough’s beaches in 1995 and in 2003, turning them from “a narrow strip” to “approximately 250 feet” from the water line.

After discussion, Lehrer granted a request by Paul Schneider, the attorney representing the Chapel and Driftwood beach clubs, to allow the defendants to amend their pleas in the case.

Thomas Hirsch, the attorney for the Surf Rider Beach Club, said this means defendants are now allowed to file countersuits.

Lehrer also gave attorneys a 120-day discovery period, during which time, Hirsch said, lawyers would be able to ask questions and take depositions “to try to get a better understanding of the state’s factual allegations in their complaint.”

The judge, however, told the attorneys on both sides that he was not ruling out the possibility of a settlement, saying that if during the discovery period “you do want a settlement conference, I’m available any time day or night.”

Brand said Thursday it was “unclear” what the move into the discovery phase will mean for the case.

“Discussions will continue, but we’re moving the case forward, which is fine,” she said. “We filed the case, we’re ready to litigate it.”

Lehrer said both sides will be returning to court before the 120-day discovery period is finished, and there will be another conference after the defendants amend their pleas. He also remained hopeful that the situation could be settled through discussions and negotiation.

“(Both sides’) positions are different, but they are not so far apart that a settlement can’t be reached,” he said.

On Jan. 29, Lehrer ordered the state to provide club owners with a detailed description of the expanded beach access being sought by the suit.

On March 13, Brand said the state would like to see unrestricted public access on any area of beach containing sand put there by the replenishment project.


©2007 Asbury Park Press
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