Natural Resources Protective Association: Protecting the marine environment since 1977

Sand Mining The N.Y. Bight

Trenton Times / Friday, March 17, 2000 by J.B. Kasper

If you have been following some of our recent columns in this paper, you are well aware of the double edged sword of ocean dumping and ocean strip mining that are threatening our coast lines. Make no bones about it, both of these issues are a serious threat to the ocean environment and the fisheries along the Jersey Coast. Here is an update on both issues and some of the developments that have occurred in the last week or so.

Sand Mining On Saturday I attended the public hearing on the proposed ocean mining of sand off the New Jersey coast at the Ocean One Conference Center in Long Branch. To say it was a completely different meeting from that which took place in Bradley Beach on Monday, February, 28th would be the understatement of the new millennium. This past Saturday’s meeting in no way resembled the farce that the Department of the Interior held on the 28th. It was held in a spacious meeting hall, started on time, was run in an orderly fashion and everyone got to speak whether they were for or against the proposed mining.

It was no coincidence that meeting was run by Congressman Frank Pallone, who has been in the forefront of the fight to stop both the ocean mining and ocean dumping. In fact, it is the second time that he has had to conduct public meetings on these issues after government agencies have failed in their responsibility to the public to hear both sides of these very important and disputed issues. (A second meeting was held after longshoremen from Newark disrupted and forced a shut down of a public meeting on the ocean dumping issue at Forth Monmouth hosted by the Army Corps of Engineers in January.)

Not only was the meeting run differently, the outcome was also very different. Unlike the first hearing where Amboy Aggregates got there early and packed the small hall with their supporters, forcing the opposition to stay outside and not be heard, there was plenty of room for both sides, and foes of the strip mining outnumbered those who favored the mining better than four to one. Representatives of the Mineral Mining Division of the Department of the Interior heard a wide ranges of concerns voiced by a diverse cross section of people who live in the communities that would be affected by the mining.

Here are some of the concerns that were voiced at the meeting. Several representatives of diving organizations stated that the ocean bottom in the area to be mined is a major habitat for lobsters, clams, scallops and other bottom living creatures that are harvested by the divers. A spokesmen for the surf clamming industry said that 80 percent of all surf calms along the Atlantic coast come from the waters off the Jersey coast and the sand mining project would devastate that industry. A representative of the Belford Seafood Co-op stated that they opposed the mining because the waters to be mined are principal fishing grounds for them.

One of the main concerns was that wrecks and other structures that hold fish in the areas would be destroyed. Although representatives of the mining industry said this would not happen, several representatives of different organizations cited a couple of wrecks that were destroyed or damaged by sand mining operations while pumping sand for beach replenishment projects. In addition, concerns were voiced that since there are no standards for the sand mining, there is too much room for abuse.

The amount of freshwater that would be needed to wash the sand once it has been dredged up was also a concern that was heard at the meeting. Since the sand washing would require large amounts of freshwater, several people demanded to know where the water would come from and how it would be handled after the sand filtering process. After the formal part of the hearing, representatives of the Department of the Interior, Amboy Aggregates, organizations opposing the mining and Congressman Pallone answered questions from the public.

Ocean Dumping News on the ocean dumping front took a down turn when the U.S Army Corps of Engineers issued permits to the Castle Astoria Terminals and the Brooklyn Marine Terminal of New York to dump dredge material off the New Jersey coast. More than 80 residents from south Jersey met in Strathmere, Upper Township and a meeting was held by the Strathmere Fishing and Environmental Club to voice concerns on the ocean dumping. Representative Frank A. LoBiondo, (Rep.- 2nd district) said “the plan to dump dredge spoils from New York at a site, known as the Mud Dump, six miles off Sandy Hook would have devastating effects on both the environment, the food chain, and the many industries that rely on clean water, such as tourism and fishing. This is a hideous form of pollution that won’t be visible to the eye”.

Anthony Totah of Clean Ocean Action said “New Jersey developed alternatives, but New York doesn’t want to pay to use them.” He said the dredge material is so toxic there are more than 20 restraints on when and how it can be dumped. Those restraints will not permit the dumping until October. This means New Jersey residents have until October to stop the dumping.

Despite all the opposition to the ocean dumping from the public, the efforts of Congressman Pallone and Representative Saxon, Representative LoBiondo and other New Jersey politicians and an agreement by vice-president Al Gore to stop the dumping, the Army Corps of Engineers is going to allow the dumping. Why has Governor Whitman remained silent on this issue? Why hasn’t the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection opposed the dumping? This issue is far from over. Currently law makers are exploring other ways of stopping the dumping. Clean Ocean Action has a petition on the internet, as well as other information on the ocean dumping. You can reach them at

You can reach us with your fishing or hunting reports, comments or questions by fax at (215) 295-0902; by E-Mail at; or by mail at :

J.B. Kasper c/o The Times, 500 Perry St., Trenton, NJ 08605.