U.S. Sens. Robert Menendez and Cory Booker and Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. and Chris Smith are all complaining vociferously about the elimination of the federal government's helicopter monitoring of coastal waters this summer.

The Environmental Protection Agency says budget cuts have forced it to end the so-called Coastal Crusader program.

Menendez and Booker say the decision to ground the EPA helicopter, which took water samples and looked for floating debris and algae blooms off the New York and New Jersey coasts, is "foolish and potentially dangerous."

"We cannot allow this vital area to return to a time when beachgoers had to fear medical and chemical waste and raw sewage washing up along the shore," they intoned ominously in a joint statement.

"Public safety and water quality will not be better because of this decision," Smith, R-4th, said.

"We cannot afford for our beaches to be shuttered due to debris washing up," Pallone, D-6th, said.

Excuse us - this is mostly hoo-ha.

In large part, the EPA's coastal monitoring flights duplicated a state coastal-monitoring program that is considered the best in the nation.

And if you are serious about cutting the cost of government - as, of course, every elected official says he or she is - you would cheer the elimination of these EPA helicopter flights.

It's not clear if Menendez, Booker, Pallone and Smith are unaware of New Jersey's Cooperative Coastal Monitoring Program, or are just saying what they think their constituents want to hear.

And their constituents do want to hear it. Everyone wants smaller government, but no wants the elimination of a program they think is beneficial to them.

If government is ever going to get more efficient, we all have to get over this kind of hypocrisy and myopia.

New Jersey's Cooperative Coastal Monitoring Program was the first of its kind in the nation and is a model for other states. It is a joint effort of the state Department of Environmental Protection, the state Department of Health and county departments of health. Ocean and bay waters are tested weekly at 218 sites, and all information is posted on a DEP website.

And yes, the state program has, from the beginning, included regular helicopter surveillance flights.


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