navesink-anchor-field-090916The Navesink is safe for boating, but that’s a “low bar” for quality, the group told Red Bank officials in a letter. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)


HOT-TOPIC_03A consortium of environmentalists, boaters and fishers is urging Red Bank officials to adopt measures to address recent spikes in bacterial contamination of the Navesink River.

As part of what it calls a “no-blame, find it, fix it” effort, the self-styled “Rally for the Navesink” group of seven organizations delivered a “letter to Red Bank” on the issue at Saturday’s Paddle the Navesink event at Maple Cove.

navesink pollution 080416A slide showing the impact of contamination that was displayed at a presentation in Shrewsbury last month. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

Here’s the letter:

To Mayor Menna and the Red Bank Council:

First, we would like to commend your efforts to address water quality problems in the Navesink River, including source tracking and elimination work, and commitment of resources for infrastructure maintenance and repair.

As you are aware, over 565 acres of the Navesink River have recently been downgraded to prohibited, or condemned, for shellfishing. This closure indicates deteriorating water quality, and risks to human health and the greater ecosystem. NJDEP lists the Navesink as impaired for primary contact recreation, which means many areas of the river are unsafe for swimming during and after rain events. NJDEP recently stated that the river remains “safe for boating”; a low bar, and an unacceptable state of the river. However, with these water quality issues comes opportunity and optimism; public meetings have been held, outreach to businesses, schools, and community groups is underway, and scientists, academics, and State, County, and Municipal officials are taking action.

Today, on “Paddle the Navesink Day” hosted in Red Bank Borough, when the shared resource of our communities, the river, is being celebrated, we the undersigned “Rally for the Navesink” network, ask the Borough of Red Bank to take further action to address the growing non-point source pollution problem that plagues the environmental and economic health of the Navesink River.

These actions include:

• First, the Borough of Red Bank must develop an “Impervious Cover Assessment” and “Reduction Action Plan” with Rutgers Water Resource Extension. This engineering analysis calculates the amount of impervious cover in a municipality, the amount of stormwater generated during a model storm, and identifies locations and projects that can be undertaken immediately to reduce the overall volume of stormwater entering the Navesink River.

An Impervious Cover Assessment and Reduction Action Plan has already been completed for Tinton Falls and is soon to be completed for Fair Haven [Fair Haven Impervious Reduction Plan June 2016]. These plans identify a menu of “shovel ready” projects and locations that would allow towns to address these issues immediately and into the future. These plans are a small investment in the health of the River and Borough, and will pay dividends in the present and future as the economic and environmental benefits of green infrastructure projects become apparent.

• Secondly, the adoption of a stronger and goal driven Municipal Stormwater Ordinance which:

— Applies to both development and redevelopment projects disturbing one-quarter or more acres of land,

— Creates a process for Environmental Commission review of stormwater controls included in all development permit applications which trigger stormwater ordinance requirements,

— Requires a demonstrated minimum design and performance standard of 100% onsite stormwater infiltration generated by a 1.25 inch rainstorm over 2 hours,

— Requires that low impact development, green infrastructure, and other nonstructural stormwater management strategies will be the first choice for managing stormwater infiltration on site,

— Requires stormwater runoff quality standards for Total Suspended Solids (a measure of turbidity and sediment load in stormwater) for all development and redevelopment projects disturbing one-quarter acre or more acres of land.

These modifications represent a progressive, effective, and attainable step forward in protecting the valuable economic and environmental role the Navesink River plays in our community, reduce flooding and erosion, and facilitate the implementation of beautifying and effective green infrastructure projects in the Borough of Red Bank. We look forward to working with the Borough of Red Bank to create a stormwater ordinance tailored to Red Bank’s unique composition and location, that also protects the integrity of the Navesink River.

Today, on Paddle the Navesink Day, the undersigned organizations, call the Borough of Red Bank to take these further actions which will enhance and support your ongoing work, and move swiftly to address water quality issues in the Navesink River.

The letter is signed by officials of Clean Ocean Action; the Monmouth Conservation Foundation; the American Littoral Society; the Navesink & Shrewsbury River Fishing Club; the Recreational Fishing Alliance; NY/NJ Baykeeper; and Navesink River Rowing.

According to a press release issued Sunday, the letter was written in response to a request by paddle day organizer and council president Cindy Burnham, who had asked the organizations to provide guidance on how Red Bank can improve water quality in the river.

Burnham told redbankgreen Monday that borough officials and Clean Ocean Action had already begun meeting to discuss a strategy. She said she’d address the issue at Wednesday night’s semimonthly council meeting.

Rally for the Navesink held a series of public forums this summer to address increased levels of fecal coliform bacteria in the waterway, particularly after rainfalls.

Following one of the forums, Republican council candidates Brian Hanlon and Kellie O’Bosky Colwell called for an “emergency” operational review of the borough sewer system to determine if it is “the main culprit of the pollution.” That request, which has not been acted upon, drew condemnation both from Burnham, a former Republican seeking re-election as an independent, and the two Democrats for council, incumbent Kathy Horgan and newcomer Erik Yngstrom. They said the Republicans were “politicizing” the matter.

In early 2015, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection issued an order suspending shellfish harvesting in 565 acres of the Navesink because of unacceptably high levels of fecal coliform.

Here’s a Clean Ocean Action report on the river’s health released in June: COA Navesink Pathogens 062816