North Atlantic Region

Area Overview

Barnegat Bay, located on New Jersey’s Atlantic Coast, spans over 40 miles of some of the state’s most scenic and economically important coastline. The nearby towns double in population during the summer, and there are extensive natural areas along the coast and in the nationally-significant Pinelands Preserve within the bay’s watershed. Robust fisheries and agricultural industries are located here.

Barnegat Bay faces several natural and manmade threats. Problems include:

  • significant declines in water quality;
  • sensitive habitat loss, alteration, and fragmentation, including loss of wetlands and beaches due to shoreline hardening, development, and dredging; and
  • impacts to numerous plant and animal species, including submerged aquatic vegetation and decreases to commercial and recreational fisheries.

Changes in natural habitats make the region more vulnerable to coastal storms and flooding. Superstorm Sandy provided a test in October of 2012, as the storm came ashore just south of Barnegat Bay. Impacts included damage to property and loss of life, fisheries disasters and economic hardship, and alterations to habitats and shorelines.  NOAA and other partners and community leaders are working to address these issues and make the community changes needed to increase the region’s resilience in the face of ongoing coastal threats such as storms, sea level rise, flooding, and other coastal hazards.

NOAA’s Role

  • NOAA’s Northeast Regional Office Habitat Conservation Division  works to protect, conserve, and enhance and restore habitat for commercially and recreationally important species of fish and shellfish by providing technical assistance, guidance and conservation recommendations to other federal, state and local agencies through Magnuson-Stevens Act and Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act consultations and stewardship activities.

    Property damage from Superstorm Sandy. Photo courtesy of Kathy Spivey, Barnegat Bay Partnership.

  • NOAA’s Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve is located within the watershed and provides long-term research and monitoring capacity, habitat stewardship, and training and technical assistance to coastal decision makers.
  • NOAA-funded coastal management programs, including the New Jersey Coastal Program address a wide range of issues including coastal/waterfront development, water quality, habitat protection, planning, coastal hazards, and climate change.
  • New Jersey Sea Grant is active in the watershed, including awarding funds to education and outreach programs that focus on community and habitat resiliency and adaptation to climate change and sea level rise.
  • NOAA programs are involved in data collection and monitoring in the region, including elevation benchmarks measured by the National Geodetic Survey in and near the Barnegat Bay watershed, and water levels and sea level trends in Atlantic City by the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services.
  • NOAA’s Undersea Research Program Mid-Atlantic Bight Center,  in partnership with the Rutgers University Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, operates a cabled ocean-based Long-Term Ecosystem Observatory (LEO-15) to better understand the forces that govern the coastal waters outside of Barnegat Bay
  • NOAA’s Habitat Restoration Center  works with federal, state, and local agencies and community stakeholders to restore aquatic habitats in Barnegat Bay though grant programs and the Natural Resource Damage Assessment program.
  • In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, several NOAA programs have or are poised to provide funding or conduct activities in and around Barnegat Bay. These include community adaptation planning, assessments of shorelines and restoration options, hydrographic and aerial surveys, and socio-economic research and outreach.

Spartina marshes are a common habitat type within Barnegat Bay. Photo courtesy of Kathy Spivey, Barnegat Bay Partnership.

Proposed Habitat Conservation Objectives

  • Promote resiliency in coastal communities through NOAA research, planning tool and application development, training and technical assistance, and education and outreach.
  • Create resilient and healthy habitats through living shorelines programs and wetland, shellfish, and submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) habitat protection, enhancement and restoration

Potential to Fulfill Habitat Blueprint Outcomes

Barnegat Bay was nominated as a candidate habitat focus area because of the strong track record of federal, state, and local collaboration in the area, the availability of baseline data which can be used to track and measure success, and the active history of NOAA involvement in efforts to help build resilient coastal communities and restore shoreline and critical habitat.  Moreover, Superstorm Sandy recovery funds are being used to enhance and expand these ongoing efforts. Resilient communities are better poised to grow increases in tourism, access, and recreation, and provide the platform needed for healthy, sustainable, and abundant fish populations within the Barnegat Bay watershed.

 

 

 

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