It sounds like a bold stroke: Solve upper Barnegat Bay's pollution problems by creating a new inlet between the bay and the sea.
The concept dates back to the 1960s, when the bay was polluted by effluent from obsolete municipal sewer plants and home septic systems. Now the idea is being kicked around again informally as anxiety increases over the bay's problems with suburban runoff pollution and mounting nitrogen levels in the water.
"There has been some discussion of the possibility of putting in a second inlet," but it's just one among a list of big-ticket projects that might be used to stem pollution problems," said Karen Hershey, a spokeswoman at the Department of Environmental Protection. "DEP is looking at a number of options. Nothing is off the table. We've got to think outside the box here."
But some coastal scientists and environmental groups are skeptical. Cutting a second channel through the barrier beach north of Barnegat Inlet could trigger events with a range of unforeseen consequences, from higher tides and shoaling in the bay to new problems with beach erosion on the oceanside, they say.