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N.J. among five states uniting to protect coast

Developing offshore wind farms is also on the agenda of the Mid-Atlantic governors council.

ALBANY, N.Y. - The governors of New Jersey and four other states promised yesterday to work together to protect the Atlantic coast and develop offshore wind farms for renewable energy.

Their agreement established the Governors Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on Oceans with member states New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.

"For centuries, New York and the region have relied on the ocean to provide services like food, commerce, recreation and transportation," New York Gov. David Paterson said. They now face a new generation of issues, he said.

Problems include more beaches closed by pollution, depleted fisheries, rising tides, and warming waters.

The states will identify ways to protect plant and animal habitats, beginning with the 10 offshore canyons that stretch from New York to Virginia and contain fish, marine mammals, and corals, said Sarah Chasis, director of the Ocean Initiative for the Natural Resources Defense Council, who attended the meeting.

The governors also committed to encouraging wind-energy development in appropriate offshore areas, improving coordination for projects in one another's and federal jurisdictions, and pushing for federal investment in wastewater infrastructure to protect beaches and fisheries.

"Any threat to these natural resources brings economic consequences that threaten jobs, local economies, and our economic well being," said New Jersey's Gov. Corzine.

Corzine and Paterson met at the Borough of Manhattan College with representatives of the other states and Nancy Sutley, who leads the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Nationally, 1,167 - or 32 percent - of all monitored beaches had closings or advisories in 2007, according to data collected by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. That compares with 23 percent a decade earlier.

Long Island, which once produced about 700,000 bushels of hard clams a year, now harvests fewer than 10,000 bushels.

New York lawmakers established the state Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Council in 2006 and ordered the heads of New York agencies to devise a long-term coast-management plan, which was released this year.