Slow pace of aquaculture development at Money Island

11/6/2016 – For the past eight years we have been working through the nonprofit BaySave Corporation on necessary legislative and policy reforms to New Jersey’s outdated land use and aquaculture regulations with very little governmental result. During that same time we’ve watched Virginia, Maryland and now Delaware soar past us in this blossoming industry that is crucial to a sustainable future here on the Delaware Bay.

In 2010 New Jersey oyster-focused nonprofits became the target of a NJDEP cease and desist order for oyster restoration research and then in 2015 and continuing into this year became the target of local township’s prosecution on Certificate of Occupancy law for our use of a bankrupt marina property as a nonprofit aquaculture co-op operation in Money Island while we are waiting for necessary government permits. This is surprising based on the strong degree of support expressed by state and federal elected officers and their staff. There is no debate about how powerful aquaculture could be in restoring our local economy. The $20 million annual seafood crop coming from Money Island could increase by tenfold with appropriate government cooperation.

At the pace we are moving, I won’t live long enough to see Money Island established as the hub of aquaculture development here in the state. Yesterday I received this email from the well-respected government relations specialist and political lobbyist for the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants:

“Tony, it sounds to me like you are doing almost everything humanly possible to move this issue forward. Very often, stupid regulations are simply never removed, despite the need for it. All I can suggest is that you stay in touch with Van Drew and that you forward your concerns about these regulations to the NJ Red Tape Review Commission. One other thing you might try is to get more people to write to the Governor on this issue. There is strength in numbers and ultimately all rules are repealed or initiated with the input of the Governor”.

I am already working with State Senator Van Drew, the Governor’s office and the Red Tape Commission (through a peer CPA who is a member of the commission) but have not tried to organize any mass public appeal directly to the governor’s office. Perhaps that is something I need to learn next.

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Six years after Sandy

The government-created “disaster after the disaster” continues to dominate much of our lives at the bayshore. After the physical effects of the storm faded in memory, we continue to battle the effects of government mismanagement that emerged after the storm. 

This month will mark six years since superstorm Sandy devastated our communities. Much of the damage has not yet been repaired and may never be repaired. The telephone line in front of my house, for example, was never replaced. I still have the downed wire that I cut down and rolled up myself during the cleanup when Verizon did not respond to repeated service calls. For most other issues it was a combination of fraud, mismanagement and red tape within the government systems that administer post-Sandy rebuilding programs are mostly to blame.

We have plans to redevelop a new type of sustainable aquaculture-based community. Funding is just beginning to flow. We still lack government approval to proceed with any part of these plans.

Many of the local people who initiated the “No retreat – Save the bayshore communities” campaign have sold their properties and moved out over the past year. Those who remain are deeply entrenched in a battle with government to negotiate a plan for recovery and sustainability.

Some of the issues that specifically hamper Money Island, New Jersey recovery are:

  1. New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance declined to investigate sales practices of insurance companies that sold inappropriate and inadequate coverage.
  2. The National Flood Insurance Program admitted fraud and mismanagement in handling flood insurance claims but continued to deny payment on those claims anyway. Policyholders have been forced to settle for lesser amounts or give up die to high legal costs of pursuing their claim in court.
  3. Most recovery programs were denied to homeowners and businesses on the New Jersey bay shore region. We read that 98% of all post-Sandy Small Business Administration loan applications were denied.
  4. Almost all of the applications and project proposal applications for post-Sandy recovery work at Money Island have been denied.
  5. On Monday June 11, 2018 when NJ activist Doug Quinn addressed FEMA administrator Brock Long about specific policy provisions at the National Flood Conference in Washington, DC on Monday to address the Congressman’s’ letter this week, NFIP administrator Brok Long said “I’m not going to answer that”, then shut down the meeting to questioning and walked off the stage. Quinn later wrote that the event “was a learning experience. We have no friends there”.
  6. On the same day, June 11, 2018, at the public meeting of Downe Township Committee mayor Bob Campbell said that FEMA officials admit that post-Sandy projects they intend to see completed are still incomplete here in our township. There was no discussion of a timetable for the federally funded projects.
  7. Last month the New Jersey Attorney General filed a lawsuit against Tony Novak and others for failure to make progress on post-Sandy recovery despite the track record of more than ten applications and pre-application proposals to do so.

It is clear that our struggle is with government, not nature. Given the history of what we call “the disaster after the disaster” I am not optimistic about any immediate change in government’s role in our future recovery. We will continue to push for our recovery and long term sustainability at a grass roots level for years to come. We are able to rebuild under the various regional and local recovery plans but we need government permission and cooperation to do so. We also need funding for those aspects of the recovery projects that benefit the public interest rather than just private businesses and homeowners. Virtually all government cooperation is still lacking at this point five and a half years after Sandy.

I anticipate at least two more years will be required to settle existing post-Sandy litigation and appeals and then return to the process of rebuilding. The legal battles are a waste of time and money that only enrich the lawyers on both sides but we don’t think that it is likely that government will act responsibly or come to our aid anytime soon.

Government contact list

This is a list of government contacts that we have engaged or hope to engage with Baysave’s work. We maintain a schedule of regular outgoing communications with all these elected officials but this year (2018) only Senator Booker has responded.


Governor Phil Murphy

Twitter: @GovMurphy

Web form: https://www.nj.gov/governor/contact/all/

Phone: (609) 292-6000

Mail: Office of the Governor
PO Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625

 


Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver

Twitter: @LtGovOliver

Same other contact information as the Governor


NJ Attorney General Gurbir Grewal

Twitter: @GurbirGrewalNJ

Phone: 609-984-5828

Email/Webform: https://www.nj.gov/lps/formmail.htm

Mail: Office of The Attorney General
RJ Hughes Justice Complex
25 Market Street, Box 080
Trenton, NJ 08625-0080


State Senator Jeff Van Drew

Twitter: @jeffvandrew

Phone: (609) 465-0700

Email: SenVanDrew@njleg.org

Mail: School House Office Park

211 S. Main St. Suite 104.

Cape May Court House, NJ 08210


NJ Assemblyman  Bob  Andrzejczak

Twitter: @BobAndrzejczak

Same mail address and phone as Van Drew


NJ Assemblyman Bruce Land

Same mail address and phone as Van Drew


NJDEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe

Twitter: @NJDEPMcCabe

Mail: 401 E. State St.
7th Floor, East Wing
P.O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Phone: (609) 292-2885
Fax: (609) 292-7695


New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney

Twitter: @NJSenatePres


US Senator Cory Booker

Twitter: @CoryBooker

Mail: One Gateway Center
23rd Floor
Newark, NJ 07102

Phone: (202) 224-3224 or 973-639-8700

Fax: 973-639-8723

Email of helpful Aid: Zach_McCue@booker.senate.gov


US Senator Bob Menendez

Twitter: @SenatorMenendez

Mail: One Gateway Center, Suite 1100
Newark, New Jersey 07102

Phone: 973-645-3030
Fax: 973-645-0502

Tim Hillman Aid Direct: 973-645-6640


US Congressional Representative Frank LoBiondo

Twitter: @RepLoBiondo 

Mail: 5914 Main Street Suite 103
Mays Landing, NJ 08330-1746

Fax: 609-625-5071

Phone: (202) 225-6572 or 609- 625-5008

Email: lobiondo@mail.house.gov