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Advocates and Lawmakers Want Marine Research Lab To Stay Open [AUDIO]

The James J. Howard Marine Sciences Laboratory, located on the Jersey shore in Sandy Hook, is a state-of-the-art marine research facility operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.

Flickr User Dougtone

It is shared with the Federal agency and the state of New Jersey. According to a budget proposal released last week by President Barack Obama, its been marked for closing as of next year. The reason? Too expensive.

That answer isn’t sitting too well with environmentalists, clean ocean activists and state & local lawmakers. The facility costs a mere $3-million-dollars a year with 38 on-site staffers doing all sorts of research to better understand the ocean, coastal & estuarine organisms and the effects of human activities on marine life. It serves not only New Jersey but the entire eastern seaboard. Several are speaking out about Obama’s plan and are scrambling to try to keep it open.

Recently, the facility, named for the late Monmouth County Congressman, turned 50 years old. It first opened in 1961 by the Department of the Interior and when NOAA was created, they took control. Over the years, the research lab has conducted thousands of hours of study on everything from plants and fish to pollution and the negative effects of mother nature on our bodies of water.

Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez along with Congressman Frank Pallone have written letters to the President indicating the importance and need for the lab. Tom Fote, head of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association, says a closure makes absolutely no sense. Fote explains “they want to save 3-million bucks? It’s a drop in the bucket and it’s going to cost more to re-locate those 38 employees to other sites around the country. It is puzzling since just a few years ago, they were considering closing the Connecticut based NOAA facility and moving everyone to Jersey. Now this?!”

Fote tells Townsquare Media that the fight is far from over and they won’t take this sitting still. He says “it was responsible for discovering toxic fish contamination in the 1970s and is one of the best facilities around for the type of work. We can’t lose this.”

Groups like Clean Ocean Action and the American Littoral Society are also pressing the Senate Appropriations Committee to make sure the decision is quickly reversed.

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