Long Branch joins watershed partnership

Whale Pond Brook Watershed group plans cleanup, greenway


 A volunteer clears overgrowth near the stone hut during an environmental cleanup in September on Ross Island at Lake Takanassee in Elberon.  ERIC SUCAR staff A volunteer clears overgrowth near the stone hut during an environmental cleanup in September on Ross Island at Lake Takanassee in Elberon. ERIC SUCAR staff Long Branch entered into a partnership with the Whale Pond Brook Watershed Association last week to clean up the watershed that spans from Long Branch to Tinton Falls and create a greenway running through five towns.

The City Council passed a resolution authorizing the partnership at its Dec. 27 meeting after a presentation by association trustee and Long Branch resident Faith Teitelbaum during the workshop meeting. She explained that the association is seeking to form a partnership with each of the five host municipalities — Long Branch, West Long Branch, Eatontown, Ocean Township and Tinton Falls.

The joint initiative would boost chances of securing grant funding under the Clean Water Act (CWA) from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“We do believe in a few years we will be able to get a federal 319 [CWA] grant and fix all the problems at the beginning of the watershed,” Teitelbaum said. “What I came here for was for you to pass this resolution and become a member.

“We think it is very important that all the towns sign on as members of the watershed association, so that when we go for a grant, we can say that we are partners and that we are working with all towns and all different partners,” she added.

A watershed is an area of land where surface water runoff from rain, melting snow or ice converges to a single point.

The Whale Pond Brook watershed empties into theAtlantic Ocean and includes water bodies in Tinton Falls, Eatontown, Ocean Township, West Long Branch and Long Branch.

City Zoning Officer and Environmental Commission liaison Michele Bernich said the partnership is the first step in obtaining the grant, while the amount of the grant application and whether the city would have to provide matching funding are not yet known.

Teitelbaum, who is a member of the city’s environmental commission, said that in addition to the CWAgrant, the watershed association would be eligible for grants from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and private companies.

Bernich said that there is no financial obligation from the city for the partnership.

“To join the association there is no fee, it is just a membership to show that all the representative towns along the watershed are working together,” she said.

While the council passed the resolution, Councilwoman Mary Jane Celli voted against the measure.

“At the workshop we were given a very nice presentation,” she said before casting her lone dissenting vote. “I thought a lot of it was fluff.

“I didn’t see very much substance and I’d like more information on what the city is going to pay,” she added. “It didn’t say specifically what the city was going to do.”

Celli went on to say that she was concerned that some of the grants the association is aiming for would require a matching portion from the city.

Long Branch is the second municipality to officially partner with the volunteer-based organization, with Tinton Falls passing a similar resolution in May 2011.

Teitelbaum said the plan is to have the remaining three municipalities pass resolutions to form a fivetown partnership. The association also has an overall plan to clean up and beautify the watershed and, according to the group’s website, plans call for creating a green path along the watershed.

“Our vision is to restore the eroded banks and water quality in the Whale Pond Brook watershed and be able to walk along a greenway fromthe source to the ocean,” the website states.

The greenway would include a scenic hike past some of the area’s historic attractions, including the 100-year-old Ross Island cottage, the old Brinley grist mill site, Woodrow Wilson Hall at Monmouth University, Takanassee Lake and historic Life Saving Station No. 5, according to the watershed association website .

Teitelbaum said the greenway would particularly benefit Long Branch because there are playgrounds, fields and memorials that run along the watershed.

“There is plentiful wildlife around here, and we do have beautiful open space in Long Branch that goes along the watershed for practically the whole area in Long Branch,” she said.

The association has spearheaded cleanups of the watershed since November 2010, and during that time some major issues that lead to pollution and other watershed problems have been discovered.

“One of the things that we discovered is a breach in the catch basin on Christopher Way [Eatontown],” Teitelbaum said. “In one year it could be so bad that you can see the water is just gushing out of the catch basin.”

Earlier this year the volunteers cleaned Ross Island, a small island in Lake Takanassee that contains a two-room hut with a fireplace that is over 100 years old.

Teitelbaum said that the cleanup drastically improved the condition of the hut and the surrounding island.

“We’ve been working lately on Ross Island and have been having a really good time out there,” she said. “You used to not be able to see it from the land.

“Now you can see it from the land and we still have a lot of work to do,” she added. “There were trees growing from the roof of the hut.”

The Whale Pond Brook Watershed Association is a group of volunteers from the five host towns.

In addition to planning to partner with each municipality in thewatershed, the association also has partnered with local environmental groups including the Jersey Shore Group of the Sierra Club, N.J. Friends of Clearwater, Monmouth County Cool Cities Partnership, and the Urban Coast Institute.

For more information on the Whale Pond Brook Watershed Association, visit the website at http://restorethewatershed.org/.

Contact Kenny Walter at kwalter@gmnews.com