Mechanical issues thwart sea level seismic research project off the Jersey shore



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LONG BEACH ISLAND, New Jersey — A seismic research project off the coast of Long Beach Island that environmentalists have criticized has been postponed until next summer because of mechanical failures over the past month.

Researchers decided to put off the project after failures within a generator and a winch on the research vessel, said Gregory Mountain, a Rutgers professor leading the project. The project was aimed at studying sea level rise and to be conducted by researchers from Rutgers University and the University of Texas.

The project has faced steep opposition from groups throughout the state who thought it would harm marine wildlife and disturb the commercial fishing economy. The state Department of Environmental Protection argued that it would "adversely impact New Jersey's vital tourism and fishing industries, and harm fish and marine mammals."

But last month, the 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals rejected the state's request to block seismic testing, allowing the researchers' project to move forward.

The postponement, opponents of the research said, is a temporary reprieve for marine life off the coast of Long Beach Island.

"This postponement is certainly a victory for the marine life for the summer at least," said Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action.

The group and others opposed to the project plan to regroup and reorganize to lead an effort against the seismic research. Zipf said they were disappointed that researchers appeared to be proceeding with plans to perform the seismic tests next year.

Mountain rejected the notion that it was inherently dangerous to marine wildlife and said the research would provide valuable information on the impact of rising sea levels.

"We'll try it again when we get the appropriate (permits)," Mountain said.

Officials said it was too early to tell what legal action the state could take to prevent the research from taking place next year. The state was already in the process of developing a plan to monitor the work being done, said Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection.

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