6 NJ sites to get $1.9M in DoD funds for conservation work near basesFirebreak near Jt. Base MDL would protect Whiting from wildfires; Other projects at Earle, Warren Grove
Residents of the Whiting community in Manchester Township south of Joint-Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JB-MDL) will receive added protection from the threat of wildfires because of new federal funding, said Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04).
The Department of Defense will provide funding to six projects in New Jersey (see list below) that promote land conservation near military sites, including $380,000 for a firebreak project to be built near the Roosevelt City section of Whiting. The firebreak will simultaneously protect the military mission of JB-MDL.
“This modest but important federal funding will go a long way toward protecting areas near our military bases that are susceptible to forest fires,” Smith said. “According to the NJ Forest Fire Service, more than 7,000 acres a year are consumed by an average of 1,500 wildfires in New Jersey, the most densely populated State in the union. The firebreak project will be in Manchester Township, home to nearly 44,000 people and many senior retirement communities,” he said.
PHOTO: Much of the 65-square mile Joint Base-MDL consists of forests. (U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Morris, at JB-MDL, 2013)
Manchester Township Mayor Ken Palmer said that he liked the idea of added fire protection for the Whiting section of the township.
“We welcome any effort to provide firebreaks in the most wooded portion of our town,” Palmer said. “Certainly, any safety measure to assist in this area is appreciated and extremely useful.”
Smith noted that the “$380,000 slated toward building a five-mile long firebreak near JB-MDL will protect people and property to the west of Whiting.”
“This area in Whiting is part of the New Jersey Pine Barrens is vulnerable to forest fires in the dry seasons or droughts,” Smith said. “This project protects America’s only Army-Navy-Air Force joint base—the second largest employer in New Jersey—and the missions it performs. More importantly, it also protects the residents of Whiting. There are many homes and businesses concentrated in Whiting which will be better protected through this project.”
The DoD awarded the funds from its Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program that promotes projects with local partners to collaborate in the preservation of compatible land uses near military installations, ranges and other strategic sites. REPI is designed to protect DoD assets and capabilities to maintain military readiness throughout the United States.
Smith said Naval Weapons Station Earle, headquartered in the Fourth District he represents, has been a leader in seeking the REMI grant. Dennis Blazak, Community Plans and Liaison Officer at Earle, has pursued this competitive funding for several years.
A total of $1,935,564.98 will be distributed to protect six military sites across 1.6 million acres in the Garden State that are threatened by development and encroachment which could impact the military mission:
· $500,000 for storm surge protection for Naval Weapons Station Earle in Middletown, Monmouth County;
· $500,000 for living shoreline protection in the form of a “T”-shaped oyster castle groin in Barnegat Bay, in Ocean County near Island Beach State Park.
· $380,000 for wildfire mitigation near Joint Base MDL in Ocean/Burlington counties (Whiting project);
· $300,000 to protect 44,000 acres of forest area in the Greenwood State from wildfire near the NJ National Guard Warren Grove Gunnery Range in Ocean/Burlington counties;
· over $100,000 for storm surge protection near Earle, in Keansburg, Monmouth County.
PHOTO: Naval Weapons Station Earle sailors assist the NY/NJ Baykeepers install oyster castles in the waters off Earle's pier to establish a living shoreline at the entrance of Ware Creek (undated U.S. Navy file photo taken by Bill Addison)
The projects are being done in conjunction with the lead partner, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, as well as local authorities, and they will be augmented with state and local resources.
The competitive funding announced was part of a $17 million effort across the country to fund projects at a dozen locations. There is no required state or local match for the federal funding.
“These projects which the DoD has identified will help make the bases safer should we face any upcoming rounds of base realignment and closure (BRAC),” Smith said, who successfully led the fight to reverse the planned closure of Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station in 1995, as well as helped in other fights to save Fort Dix and McGuire AFB in the 1990s, later merged into the Joint Base in 2009. “Earle is a critical base for the Navy and its logistical shipping, and protecting its mission is crucial to national security, and to the jobs of the men and women who work there.”