Local aquaculture hopes to coordinate efforts with state government in 2019

From a local aquaculture perspective, 2018 was not a productive year for legislative action. At the end of 2017 we had plans to move forward on a number of issues but that just did not happen. The recent campaign where our state Senator Jeff Van Drew was elected to the US Congress was apparently a big part of the reason for lack of focus on our intended issues. The legislator’s staff told me that their just wasn’t time in the schedule. I hope to change that in 2019. I just sent this e-mail message to Assemblyman Bruce Land and Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak in hopes of scheduling a meeting.

At the beginning of 2018 we had high hopes of progress in a number of aquaculture-related issues that I’ve previously discussed with Senator Van Drew and communicated with Jon Atwood. Unfortunately with the recent election and other distractions, we saw little progress on local issues. We would like to get your input and opinion on these open issues:

– A master plan for sustainable redevelopment of South Jersey’s second most productive seafood landing port.

– Coordination of private and public community redevelopment funding that has been out-of-sync lately.

– Stalled regulation reform for transfer of commercial crab licenses.

– State’s treatment of the new watermens’ cooperative.

I would welcome the opportunity to come to your office to discuss the local industry planning for 2019 to ensure that our efforts are in sync with legislative priorities.

Tony Novak, Controller

Baysave

Aquaculture, by its nature of existing on state-controlled waters, must coordinate closely with state government. For years now major aquaculture investors have been waiting on the sidelines for a sign that state government will support expansion of the industry. The reverse effect – the demonstration that the state attorney general was willing to sue aquaculture companies with pending or stalled permit applications – sent shivers through the local industry. The last word I heard from an industry lobbyist was that his clients planned to wait and see what happens with us at Money Island before venturing forth with their own money.

We appreciate the ongoing efforts of Downe Township and Cumberland County officials. But we really need the state government to be on-board with the local and regional planning and funding to allow us to move forward.

Goodbye Bayview Road

Tomorrow my neighbors’ houses on Bayview Road at Money Island NJ will be torn down by a state contractor. Hardly a day goes by when someone doesn’t ask me “Why?” Yet even with as many times as I had to respond to this question, I still don’t have a neat concise answer. More disturbing, I don’t have an answer that I really believe. Some former homeowners here would say they were unable to handle the high costs associated with rising water levels. Others, like our mayor, call it “NJDEP terrorism” as the state threatened massive fines against us without offering any source of funds to address the new environmental challenges. At least a few of my former neighbors would say they were just scared away by what they saw happening around them.

I still wonder about the thought process that went into my neighbors’ thinking about selling and moving out that caused them to act differently when negotiating with the state compared to what they told me in person when we talked last. I was surprised  and apparently the local government was equally surprised that 100% of the neighbors across the bridge elected to sell their properties. The overall buyout completion rate is 80%, according to NJ Blue Acres office, indicating that normally a few houses remain after a buyout. It might have had to do with the bridge itself that was badly corroded and appeared to be collapsing prior to the buyouts. Ironically, the bridge repair and seawall construction were completed after the buyouts were planned.

No doubt this is am emotional and sad time for many. Looking at the photos, I think of the happy times I’ve had as a guest in many of these neighbors houses in earlier times.  I also think of the few neighbors who later blamed me for causing the state to acquire these houses.  I try to not think too much about the bizarre events that led to death threats and even an attempt on my life by an angry neighbor and a politician for my role in trying to preserve this community.

After tomorrow only two houses will be left on Bayview road. My home office is one of the two and this site is proposed as a research/educational facility for the future. The only reason these two properties were spared the devastating impact of higher and more violent wave action is because we are protected by a half million dollar sea wall, sand berms, and more sturdy pilings that elevate the buildings.

Many other questions come up at a time like this. Is the state’s strategic retreat policy sound? (Surely we can’t afford to relocate our entire New Jersey coastal population inland!)  Will we be besieged by another round of ‘disaster tourists’ after the tear downs (like after Sandy)?  Or will the area’s use as a nature preserve bring positive change? Will the state step up it’s legal harassment against the two remaining homeowners?  How will we cope with wilder wetter weather and the flooding ahead? What physical accommodations will be necessary to accommodate higher water levels and more damaging erosion?  Will my floating barge-based infrastructure construction designs  gradually become accepted under state regulations or will  I continue to clash with the older dry land building codes? We just do not know the answers to these questions yet.

We do know that the future of Money Island is bright. It is the region’s second most productive seafood landing port. The local seafood industry is now entering a significant growth phase based on new technology and changing water conditions. Money Island remains an important research and recreational spot. Millions of dollars are being spent here to sustain and redevelop the area in a sustainable future.

We also know that we won’t be the last residential community to grapple with these strategic retreat questions related to the removal of homes. I just wish we weren’t among the first to have to figure out where to go from here.

Shocking climate change forecast

Yesterday the federal government of the United States released the most shocking and stark assessment of our lives, forecasting severe problems ahead in coming decades. The report is compiled by several different government agencies. Late Wednesday on the eve before Thanksgiving the Trump administration, apparently in an effort to minimize the shock to the American people, moved the scheduled release date of the report from December until late in the day on Black Friday. Now we understand why.

The findings and forecasts included in yesterday’s Fourth National Climate Assessment report are more stark and shocking than anything we’ve read so far.  This blog post is a collection of excerpts from the report that most strongly affect us at the bay.

Findings most directly affecting us at the bay

“The assumption that current and future climate conditions will resemble the recent past is no longer valid

“Global annually averaged surface air temperature has increased by about 1.8°F (1.0°C) over the last 115 years (1901–2016). This period is now the warmest in the history of modern civilization.”

it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century

“In addition to warming, many other aspects of global climate are changing, primarily in response to human activities.”

“Global average sea levels are expected to continue to rise—by at least several inches in the next 15 years and by 1–4 feet by 2100. A rise of as much as 8 feet by 2100 cannot be ruled out1. Sea level rise will be higher than the global average on the East and Gulf Coasts of the United States.”

Heavy rainfall is increasing in intensity and frequency across the United States and globally and is expected to continue to increase. The largest observed changes in the United States have occurred in the Northeast.”

“over the next few decades (2021–2050), annual average temperatures are expected to rise by about 2.5°F for the United States”

“Without substantial and sustained global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century.”

“While mitigation and adaptation efforts have expanded substantially in the last four years, they do not yet approach the scale considered necessary to avoid substantial damages to the economy, environment, and human health over the coming decades.”

“Rising temperatures, extreme heat, drought, wildfire on rangelands, and heavy downpours are expected to increasingly disrupt agricultural productivity in the United States. Expected increases in challenges to livestock health, declines in crop yields and quality, and changes in extreme events in the United States and abroad threaten rural livelihoods, sustainable food security, and price stability.”

“Our Nation’s aging and deteriorating infrastructure is further stressed by increases in heavy precipitation events, coastal flooding, heat, wildfires, and other extreme events, as well as changes to average precipitation and temperature. Without adaptation, climate change will continue to degrade infrastructure performance over the rest of the century, with the potential for cascading impacts that threaten our economy, national security, essential services, and health and well-being.

Coastal communities and the ecosystems that support them are increasingly threatened by the impacts of climate change. Without significant reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions and regional adaptation measures, many coastal regions will be transformed by the latter part of this century, with impacts affecting other regions and sectors. Even in a future with lower greenhouse gas emissions, many communities are expected to suffer financial impacts as chronic high-tide flooding leads to higher costs and lower property values2.”

Outdoor recreation, tourist economies, and quality of life are reliant on benefits provided by our natural environment that will be degraded by the impacts of climate change in many ways”

Baysave immediate response

Since its founding in 2010, Baysave has adopted and worked with earlier forecasts from government and academia that climate change is the world’s #1 greatest challenge. This issue has been at the core of our mission. But this new report issued by the the federal government is far more stark than we have realized and planned for in our strategic and operational guidelines to date. We can immediately conclude:

  • This report sets a new legal standard of care for management of public and private institutions. Those who state that they don’t ‘believe’ in human-caused climate change and subscribe to official government mitigation strategy expose themselves and their organizations to civil and perhaps criminal liability.
  • Our future is more bleak than we realized, and shocking disruptive change will come sooner than we realized.
  • Our own current climate change mitigation and response plans are inadequate. Likewise, the larger communities plans, like the Cumberland County Delaware Bayshore Recovery Plan, are also inadequate.
  • The Trump administration’s handling of the release of this major news indicates that that there will be political wrangling ahead that will increase our strife and damage. We do not expect direct logical response by government.
  • The government officials who compiled this report have changed the path of this nation’s government and maybe the future of the world.
Fourth National Climate Change Assessment photo
Fourth National Climate Change Assessment

Baysave’s only logical response is to re-assess our business plans and strategy in light of this shocking new information.


Footnotes

1 This is the first admission by government that past forecasts have substantially under-estimated the impact of climate change.
2 This is a stark warning that the revenue base of east coast communities – real estate taxes – will be destroyed.

NJ building code change applies to bay structures

In March of 2018 the Uniform Construction Code was modified to exempt many types of minor work from permitting requirements. This is important because many bay structures do not qualify for building permits. Find the details here.

This change in building permit requirements does not affect other laws like CAFRA and NJDEP requirements.

Small local fisheries and aquaculture play an important role in economy and food security

The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO.org) lists among its priorities “Recognizing small-scale fisheries as a fundamental contributor to poverty alleviation and food security“. While this concept is widely recognized in economic planning of third world countries, it is just as important in disadvantaged US seafood landing port communities.

Baysave is working to promote healthy, sustainable local aquaculture and fisheries industries in the rural and disadvantaged bayshore region of New Jersey on the Delaware Bay. The key to success in revitalization of this industry is the availability of high impact investment funds from angel investors with a vision to convert today’s low priced fishery and aquaculture assets into more productive facilities using technology that is already successfully employed in other places.

Success in this area isn’t ‘rocket science’. We know that the Delaware Bay crab and oyster industries are poised for sustainable long term expansion. This conclusion is based on observation of tenfold go twentyfold overall production increases in nearby Chesapeake Bay and Barnegat Bay. We simply need to align government permitting so that we can attract investment capital for infrastructure and business development. Unfortunately, New Jersey has a history of ineffective governance in this area and a political structure that resists change.

Small local fisheries and aquaculture remains dependent on two factors:

1) Ability to obtain state government permitting

2) Ability to attract investment funds

We remain committed to addressing these needs for the local bayshore community.