By David Cruz
Asbury Park is the hot spot this summer for politicians looking to talk about the Jersey Shore economy. Today, Sen. Frank Lautenberg and others were there to call for more protection of the Jersey coastline.
Just days after Gov. Chris Christie used the boardwalk as a backdrop, Lautenberg joined Congressman Frank Pallone and Asbury Park Mayor Ed Johnson to call for the re-authorization and full funding of the federal Beach Act, which would mandate quicker turnaround for water pollution test results and fund grants for shore towns to find and shut down sources of pollution.
“This is a bipartisan problem,” said Pallone. “In other words, the president didn’t put it in the budget. I can’t blame anybody at this point, Democrat or Republican. Sen. Lautenberg and I are just trying to get the money put back in.”
The purpose of today’s press conference was to call for full funding of anti-pollution efforts along the Jersey Shore, but in the war against pollution, officials here say they have met the enemy — and he is us.
“The main item that they pick up is cigarette butts,” noted Asbury Park Mayor Ed Johnson. “They pick up thousands of pounds of cigarette butts on the boardwalk, on the beach, in the water and just what I call human disposable garbage, you know — bottles of water, trash. The garbage left by human beings.”
Lautenberg also sounded the alarm against efforts to bring off shore drilling to New Jersey, which the House approved last year before it died in the Senate. “We don’t want our beaches full of oil,” he said. “We don’t want our waters filled with oil; we don’t want the result that you can easily get from drilling off our coast. We’ve got to search for other sources for energizing our need, and one thing we don’t want to do is put this state at risk.”
Whether it’s burger shacks or beach passes, the shore economy depends on millions of visitors coming to the waters edge, but the formula falls apart if the water itself is inhospitable. The lawmakers admit a re-authorization is unlikely given the political climate in Washington, but, they say, clean water down the shore is something on which everyone should be able to agree.