OCEAN COUNTY – Several local towns will host wildfire and shoreline projects funded by the Department of Defense to protect the joint base, conserve land, and help the safety of residents.
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
- $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
- $150,000 for Rancocas Creek Watershed stormwater management to protect the area near Lockheed Martin plant that produces AEGIS technology for the U.S. Navy in Burlington County
- over $100,000 for storm surge protection near Earle, in Keansburg, Monmouth County.
Near the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, a fire break will be planned. This $380,000 project will be built near the Roosevelt City section of Whiting. The firebreak will simultaneously protect the military mission of JB-MDL.
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.”
Residential portions of Manchester have been working to become firewise communities. This is when leaders educate and plan for what to do in case of a major fire. With all the forested areas surrounding the residential developments, there have been a few significant forest fires over the years.
“This modest but important federal funding will go a long way toward protecting areas near our military bases that are susceptible to forest fires,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-4th). “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.”
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.
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.
“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. “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.”