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Tons of rock salt sits piled up in Searsport, Maine, Tuesday awaiting the arrival of a barge to bring it down to New Jersey. / Gabor Degre, Bangor Daily News

NEWARK, N.J. -- The state's transportation commissioner, who blamed a federal law for holding up shipments of rock salt from Maine to New Jersey, didn't know that the first barge-load of salt landed in Port Newark on Monday night.

Commissioner James Simpson said he learned that the barge carrying 9,500 tons of salt had arrived after Tuesday morning's New Jersey Turnpike Authority board meeting.

"I am just hearing that the barge is in Newark," Simpson said Tuesday. "I have not confirmed that, but it's good news if it did come."

On Monday afternoon, Simpson told reporters that state officials weren't expecting the salt barge to land in Port Newark for several weeks - even though it was already en route to arrive that night.

Spokesman Joseph Dee said that Simpson "didn't have up-to-the-minute information" on Monday.

Dee did confirm what American Maritime Partnership officials said earlier Tuesday, confirming the arrival of the barge carrying some of the 40,000 tons purchased by the DOT. The barge left Searsport, Maine, at 6 a.m. Saturday.

Unloading of the salt will begin Wednesday, Dee said.

The remaining 30,500 tons of salt still are waiting for transport on a Searsport dock.

Meanwhile, Democratic Sens. Cory Booker and Robert Menendez of New Jersey blasted the DOT for trying to blame the Jones Act, a federal regulation designed to protect the U.S. maritime industry, for what they said was the state's poor planning.

"There were numerous opportunities to enlist our help, including at least one direct conversation with Commissioner Simpson, in which the apparent salt crisis wasn't even mentioned. In the face of an emergency, citizens of New Jersey expect its officials to do everything possible to protect the public from potential harm and in this case, the state fell short," the senators said Tuesday evening.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Oops: N.J. official didn't know salt had arrived

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