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Pallone and New Jersey Congressional Delegation Members Call on EPA to Restore Coastal Helicopter Monitoring

Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) and members of the New Jersey Congressional Delegation sent a joint letter to the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Gina McCarthy, asking that the agency's Region 2 aerial helicopter monitoring program be saved from impending budget cuts. Each year from Memorial Day to Labor Day, EPA's "Coastal Crusader" monitors the waters along the Atlantic Coast for debris, such as trash, oil slicks and algal blooms known as floatables.

Pallone was joined by Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker and Congressmen John Runyan, Albio Sires, Frank A. LoBiondo, Rush Holt, Bill Pascrell and Donald M. Payne, Jr. in calling on Administrator McCarthy to restore funding for the critical coastal protection program.

"As we enter the summer tourism season, our economy is still struggling to recover from the devastating impacts of Superstorm Sandy and we cannot afford for our beaches to be shuttered due to debris washing up along the coast," said Pallone. EPA's helicopter monitoring has operated at a nominal cost and has been incredibly successful in spotting and mitigating potential coastal disasters by spotting floatables before they reach the Shore. Cutting this program could have serious consequences for our tourism economy."

The helicopter monitoring program has operated successfully since 1977 and was modified in 1989 to include the involvement of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Coast Guard, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. To safeguard coastal waterways in New Jersey and New York, EPA Region 2 has deployed a helicopter to search for floating debris and coordinate cleanups. The helicopter is also used to collect water samples that are critical to determine the health of shellfish beds.

Pallone initially called on Administrator McCarthy on Monday, April 28, 2014 to restore the $250,000 program, which helps support New Jersey's $5.5 billion tourism industry.

The following is text of the letter:

May 2, 2014

Honorable Gina McCarthy

Administrator

Environmental Protection Agency

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20460

Dear Administrator McCarthy,

We write today to request that you restore funding for EPA's Region 2 helicopter monitoring program, a critical aspect of EPA's New York Bight Floatables Action Plan. Earlier this week, we were notified by EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck that discretionary funding for this critical program has been eliminated. Each year from Memorial Day to Labor Day, EPA's "Coastal Crusader" monitors the waters along the Atlantic Coast for floatable debris, such as trash, oil slicks and algal blooms.

Floatable debris can cause problems along the Jersey shore if the debris comes into contact with those recreating along the coast, including beachgoers and fishermen. It also poses problems for fish and other aquatic animals that can get caught in floating debris. To safeguard coastal waterways in New Jersey and New York, EPA Region 2 has deployed a helicopter to search for floating debris and coordinate cleanups with federal, state, and local partners including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Coast Guard, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, among others.

In EPA's 2013 updated "Floatables Action Plan" for the New York Bight, it is stated that:

"Most floatable debris slicks that can impact the shores of New York and New Jersey are known to originate in the New York/New Jersey Harbor Complex. In order to effectively mitigate floatable debris slicks, surveillance will focus as close as possible to the point of origin, the Harbor Complex. Within the context of this action plan we have defined the New York/New Jersey Harbor Complex to include the Arthur Kill, Newark Bay, the Kill Van Kull, the Upper and Lower New York Harbor, the lower Hudson River, and the coastline of Coney Island. EPA will provide aerial surveillance of the Harbor Complex daily, except Sundays throughout the critical beach season. NJDEP will fly on Sunday into Raritan Bay to ensure seven day a week coverage."

In New Jersey, our coastal economy is still struggling to recover from the devastating impacts of Superstorm Sandy. If the helicopter monitoring program is indeed canceled, there will be a greater risk of floating debris impacting those visiting and living along the Jersey shore this summer. This is a chance we cannot afford to take. Once again, we request that you restore funding to this critical program and we look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

ROBERT J. MENENDEZ FRANK PALLONE, JR. CORY A. BOOKER

United States Senator Member of Congress United States Senator

JON RUNYAN ALBIO SIRES

Member of Congress Member of Congress

FRANK A. LOBIONDO RUSH D. HOLT

Member of Congress Member of Congress

BILL PASCRELL, JR. DONALD M. PAYNE, JR.

Member of Congress Member of Congress


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