Upon discussions with key agencies and officials Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) voiced his concern today that the decision to cut the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Region 2 aerial helicopter coastal monitoring program could undermine the success of the multi-agency New York Bight Floatables Action Plan.
"Every agency plays an important and distinctive role in this plan, and if EPA walks away from the table I fear it could have serious environmental impacts on the Jersey Shore economy," Pallone said.
Each year from Memorial Day to Labor Day, EPA's "Coastal Crusader" monitors the waters in the New York Harbor and along the coast for debris as part of EPA's participation in the New York Bight Floatables Action Plan, which includes involvement by other agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP).
"If this misguided plan moves forward, we will lose the "eyes in the sky' needed to locate and cleanup floating debris in our waters," said Pallone. "As our coastal economy works to rebound from the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, an increased risk of floating debris impacting our beaches is the last thing New Jersey needs."
Last week, Pallone, joined by members of New Jersey's Congressional Delegation, sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy asking that the decision to cut the helicopter program funding be reversed. In a conversation with Administrator McCarthy Pallone underscored his opposition to EPA's plan to cut the helicopter program.
Pallone discussed the matter with officials that participate in the Floatables Action Plan, including NJDEP Commissioner Bob Martin, who agreed with the Congressman's characterization that the EPA helicopter program was not, in fact, duplicative and its cancelation would have serious negative consequences. The NJDEP operates a fixed-wing plane that flies over the New Jersey coast during the summer, but the plane does not fly over the New York Harbor, which is the source of a majority of the floating debris that can potentially impact New Jersey beaches.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has no aerial component to their role in the action plan. The Corps of Engineers operates skimmer boats that navigate the New York Harbor to collect debris and transfer it to landfills. The EPA helicopter surveys the harbor and calls in reports of floating debris so the Corps of Engineers can respond and recover the debris. Cancelation of the EPA helicopter will increase the risks of missing large areas of debris in the harbor. Pallone also spoke to the U.S. Coast Guard, who confirmed that their role is strictly in responding to oil spills, a relatively rare occurrence.