Would an another inlet solve Barnegat Bay’s problems?

Creating a new inlet for Barnegat Bay might cause more problems than it solves.

Would an Additional Inlet Help Solve
Barnegat Bay’s Problems?

The idea of creating a new inlet to the ocean has been raised by numerous persons who care about Barnegat Bay. They have in mind the notion of bringing clean ocean water into the eutrophic waters of our bay. While their sincere intentions can be appreciated, the practicalities of a new inlet are highly uncertain for multiple reasons.

The tidal range along the Atlantic Ocean beach is approximately five feet between high and low tide. In the middle and upper reaches of Barnegat Bay, however, the bay side tidal range is less than one foot. Were an inlet to be opened, there would be an “argument” between the bay and the ocean over what the water level should be. When the bay and the ocean have an argument, the ocean wins.

If a new inlet is put through, the present one foot tidal range on the bay side will then approach the ocean’s five foot tidal swing over an extended area. Large sections of Barnegat Bay that are currently suitable for boating will no longer be navigable except at high tide. Places that are now shoal will be above water most of the time.

That huge sucking sound you hear will be the formerly navigable waters of Barnegat Bay disappearing out the new inlet.

No Environmental Impact Statement can begin to foretell the effects of tidal erosion and deposition resulting from a new inlet. Some bay islands might disappear. Some might be created. Some formerly waterfront homes might end up far from the water. All these changes would be beyond prediction.

The expense of keeping a new inlet open might be surprisingly great. Nature has already indicated a lack of interest in an inlet in the upper reaches of Barnegat Bay. Cranberry Inlet closed in 1812. Ortley Beach is named for the man who tried in vain to change that fact.

Creating another inlet may increase the expense of keeping already existing inlets open. There is a finite amount of water in the coastal system. The energy of its twice daily transfer keeps the existing inlets clear. If we increase the number of inlets, we may decrease the finite hydrological pressure of water moving through the Barnegat and Manasquan and Little Egg inlets, thereby making them more susceptible to shoaling.

Finally, it should be noted that Barnegat Bay is an estuary, a place in which the ecology depends on the mixing of both fresh and salt water. It will be a day of defeat for those working to restore Barnegat Bay, if, due to the creation of a new inlet, the high ocean water salinity transforms this once biologically prolific estuary into a salt water lagoon.

It is surprising that that no one at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has politely told advocates that this idea just won’t work. DEP personnel are doing a disservice to any person of good will whom they encourage to explore it.

The good news is that someone apparently thinks that so great a sum of money is available for the benefit of Barnegat Bay. Let’s use that cash to reconfigure storm water management and to buy open space. These more prosaic remedies are the components of Barnegat Bay’s potentially bright future.

William deCamp Jr., President
Save Barnegat Bay

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