rap #164 08/20/10
COUNTY-HOSTED DEP FORUM FOCUSED ON BARNEGAT BAY
TOMS RIVER - A State Department of Environmental Protection community outreach forum Thursday night attracted residents from around Ocean County,
who used the opportunity to question state officials about the Barnegat Bay.
While the informal session, hosted by the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders, was open to residents and visitors who wished to discuss any
environmental matters with state officials, most of the questions focused on the bay.
"Barnegat Bay is the lifeblood of Ocean County," said Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari. "The DEP understands this and I thank them for taking the time
to send their professional staff to meet face-to-face with our residents."
Magdalena Padilla, chief of staff for the DEP, led a team of five professionals who gave a presentation on the general health of the bay and spent
nearly two hours fielding questions.
Padilla said she came to Ocean County to hear directly from the people who live, work and play on the bay.
"We face the delicate task of balancing bay protection with allowing people to enjoy all of what the Barnegat Bay has to offer," she said. "This balance is
important not just for us, but for our children and all those that will come after us. We must make sure there is a Barnegat Bay tomorrow."
Nearly 50 people attended the forum, commenting on everything from the growing jellyfish population to a state proposal for a county authority to
collect and process stormwater runoff.
Several residents said the proposal by two North Jersey legislators that would create a stormwater runoff authority paid for by Ocean County
taxpayers is unfair.
The residents said Barnegat Bay is a state resource used by visitors from around New Jersey and any effort to protect the bay should be funded by
the entire state, not just Ocean County.
Vicari said the Freeholders have already taken that position and will oppose any authority unless the cost is shared by all New Jersey taxpayers.
Several residents also questioned the impact of fertilizer on the waterways, saying many homes directly on the bay and rivers now have green lush
lawns instead of the rocks and gravel that was typical 10 or 20 years ago.
Padilla said the DEP cannot protect the bay alone.
"The DEP is trying to encourage more awareness so people can make the right choices," she said.
Vicari said he was pleased that the DEP has taken such an interest in Ocean County. Thursday's night session was the third visit by DEP officials
in as many weeks.
Earlier this month Vicari and DEP Commissioner Bob Martin met for a personal one-on-one conference in Vicari's office.
The following week DEP Local Government Assistant Cindy Randazzo attended a Freeholder's meeting and outlined the department's commitment to environmental
"I've found there's a refreshing new desire at the DEP to work in partnership with local towns and counties," Vicari said. "Commissioner Martin and
his staff understand the difficult problems we face in Ocean County. He is willing to work with us to protect our fragile environmental while also
continuing to encourage economic growth."
Also addressed at Thursday's session was a new streamlining of the DEP's permitting process.
In the coming months, additional permit information will be available online, and in some cases, permits can actually be printed directly from the
At the end of the two-hour session, Padilla praised the residents for attending.
"Thank you for your time and your passion," she said.