It’s a familiar site for boaters in Barnegat Bay, and can be seen from Seaside Heights and Seaside Park every day: the wooden utility poles that make up the former AT&T ship-to-shore communications system at Good Luck Point, on the mainland in Berkeley Township.
Now, officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say they want to remove the poles and restore the landscape to its natural state. First, however, they will have to receive permission to remove the poles since the communications equipment is considered historic.
The site includes a shortwave transmitter building and antenna field. Berkeley Township owns the shuttered building, while the poles of the inactive antenna field are on land owned by the federal government as part of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.
Under the call sign WOO, the shortwave facility at Good Luck Point, known as Ocean Gate, was a renowned transmitting station, which helped broadcast Voice of America around the globe after 1944 and enabled communication with ships at sea throughout the twentieth century. The historic property is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The site remained active until 1999. The wires connecting the poles were dismantled prior to the site becoming part of the refuge.
The proposed project will remove approximately 340 wooden poles from the inactive antenna field, along with several metal antennae. The goal of the removal, funded by Superstorm Sandy recovery dollars, is to “enhance coastal marsh habitats by increasing marsh resiliency from impacts of large storm events and other ecosystem stressors,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife said in a statement.
As part of the project, an additional 113 poles would be removed from a WOO companion site in Manahawkin, Stafford Township, that was used as a shortwave receiving station and antenna field. Via Manahawkin, shortwave communications from ships at sea were linked to America’s telephone network from the 1930s until 1999.
A mitigation program is being developed in consultation with the New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office in order to lessen the “adverse effects” of removing the antennas. Public comment on the plan ended last month.