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Congressmen: Extend comment on seismic surveying - Ocean City Sentinel: State

Congressmen: Extend comment on seismic surveying

LoBiondo and Smith want 60 more days to talk about testing off the Jersey coast

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Posted: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 9:26 am

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two New Jersey congressman, Frank LoBiondo (R-2) and Chris Smith (R-4), asked Katheryn Sullivan, Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), to direct the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), to provide a 60-day extension to the comment period for planned seismic surveying, which is scheduled to close on April 16. 

The National Science Foundation, with funding from Rutgers University, is planning to conduct seismic testing off the coast of New Jersey, 25 to 85 nautical miles southeast of Barnegat Inlet this summer. 

The study will allow researchers to monitor and trace sea level changes. 

The proposed seismic survey is expected to begin in June and proceed during the summer months when a large percentage of revenue is generated by seasonal tourism. New Jersey’s commercial and recreational fishing industries, both of which are still recovering from the devastation and economic loss of Hurricane Sandy. 

In a letter, the congressmen stated: “We believe that due to the importance of these studies and the significant attention past studies have garnered, the need for additional time for clarification and review is paramount. Accordingly, we respectfully request the NMFS issue a 60-day extension to the public comment period to allow ample review of the application submitted as well as additional time to fully notify and educate interested parties.”

In addition to mainland areas such as Cumberland and Salem counties, LoBiondo also represents a large swath of the Jersey shore in Atlantic, Cape May and Ocean counties.

“I’m deeply disappointed NOAA is again considering to allow seismic testing off the Jersey shore. Last year I joined the near-unanimous opposition from local concerned residents, commercial and recreational fishermen, and environmentalists for the proposed project,” LoBiondo said. “Those same groups are again speaking out and deserve to be heard.” 

Smith, who represents areas of Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean counties, said there are “serious concerns” with seismic testing off New Jersey’s coast. 

“The shore communities we represent need more time to evaluate and prepare comments on the impact that this controversial proposal would have on our state, including our fisheries,” Smith said. “Previous surveying has involved aiming sound pulse blasts from a boat on the surface shot out of dozens of airguns directed at the seabed. They are powerful enough to measure echoes that bounce off sediment layers more than a mile beneath the sea floor. The sound pulse blasts produce about 250 decibels every five seconds, 24-hours a day for 30 days. A 60-day extension to study the impact of this disruptive activity is reasonable request to allow time to research and compile information to submit during the comment period.”

LoBiondo said both he and Smith have pressed the NOAA to recognize the opposition from New Jersey’s shore communities against seismic testing. 

“There are legitimate questions unanswered about the impact to local marine life, the potential damage to endangered species and habitats, and the need to do such research at this time in the first place. A 60-day extension to the public comment period is a valid request that NOAA should probably consider and grant.”

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