The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has filed a complaint for injunctive and declaratory relief in U.S. District Court in an effort to halt Rutgers University’s seismic survey, currently underway in the ocean approximately 15 to 50 miles southeast of Barnegat Inlet.
For the project, funded by the National Science Foundation, researchers from Rutgers University and the University of Texas at Austin are endeavoring to examine the geologic record of sea level change and effect on shoreline stability. Last week, prior to the complaint, Gregory Mountain, Rutgers professor of Earth and planetary science, said the survey will “continue for 36 days or until our 12 km x 50 km survey grid has been examined with acoustic profiling.” Mountain is also adjunct senior research scientist for the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, which operates the R/V Marcus G. Langseth.
The project has been opposed by many on the coast – because of concern over the seismic airguns’ potential effect on marine life and fisheries commerce – since before last summer, when it was originally slated to begin. The DEP first legally challenged the study last year, but the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals denied the state’s request to stop the venture.
However, the Langseth subsequently experienced mechanical problems and the survey was postponed until this year.
Last month, the National Marine Fisheries Service granted an incidental harassment authorization to take marine mammals in connection with the research cruise, allowing the project to move ahead on its new timeline.
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