DEP Awards $10 Million to Improve Barnegat Bay Watershed

Projects Aim to Reduce the Impacts of Stormwater Runoff
By JULIET KASZAS-HOCH | May 08, 2019

Trenton — Grant funding totaling $10 million will be used for local water quality improvement projects in the Barnegat Bay watershed, state Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe announced last week.

The projects, to be implemented by nonprofits, local governments and state colleges and universities, target ways to reduce the effect of stormwater runoff, also known as nonpoint source pollution.

Stormwater runoff carries pollutants, such as nutrients from fertilizers and animal waste, into waterways. “Excessive nutrients can cause algae blooms that impact the ecological health of waterways and diminish recreational enjoyment,” the DEP stated. “Long, shallow and narrow, Barnegat Bay is particularly susceptible to this type of pollution.”

As McCabe stated, “The restoration, enhancement and protection of a healthy Barnegat Bay is a DEP priority. Reducing the impacts of stormwater runoff is one of the biggest challenges we face in the Barnegat Bay watershed. We applaud these grant awardees for the passion they have for enhancing and protecting a natural resource that is truly a New Jersey treasure.”

Among the projects that have received funding are those involving watershed protection planning, wetlands restoration, creation of living shorelines, stewardship and education, stormwater infrastructure mapping, stormwater-basin retrofits, aquatic vegetation and shellfish revitalization and protection of the bay’s most sensitive habitats.

The grants include $3 million to the Ocean County Planning Department for a living shoreline restoration project at Cattus Island County Park and $1 million to the American Littoral Society for a living shoreline and oyster reef project to improve water quality along Forked River Beach.

Four awards were designated for the Barnegat Bay Partnership: $100,000 for a “Bay Friendly” stewardship program; $200,000 for a watershed restoration and protection plan for the Oyster Creek watershed; $220,000 for a watershed restoration and protection plan for Cedar Creek; and $700,000 for a watershed restoration and protection plan for the Toms River watershed.

ReClam the Bay will receive $30,000 for Barnegat Bay restoration and enhancement, while Save Barnegat Bay will be given $100,000 for nonpoint source education for local government and municipal stormwater outreach. Clean Ocean Action, meanwhile, will utilize $600,000 to identify and eliminate pathogens from sanitary sewage sources in the Toms River watershed.

Rutgers University is receiving $775,000 to develop a watershed restoration plan for southern Barnegat Bay, including Little Egg Harbor tributaries. Montclair State University will see $300,000 for restoration and enhancement of submerged aquatic vegetation in the bay. Stockton University will use $225,000 for a project modeling restoration of submerged aquatic vegetation and $300,000 for creation of oyster reefs in the bay.

The grants also include $350,000 to Tuckerton borough for a living shorelines project at Tuckerton Beach and $270,000 to the Ocean County Sheriff's Department for Barnegat Bay education and enforcement.

According to the state, “The DEP’s Water Quality Restoration grants are made possible through funds from the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act Section 319(h) program, Natural Resource Damage settlements the state has secured with polluters and the state’s Corporate Business Tax. Additional funding for water quality projects is also available in low-interest and principal-forgiveness (grant-like) loans through the New Jersey Water Bank, administered by the DEP in partnership with New Jersey Water Infrastructure Bank.”

The watershed encompasses all or parts of 37 municipalities in Ocean and Monmouth counties and is an important driver of tourism-related activities, including fishing, crabbing and bird-watching. A study commissioned by the nonprofit Barnegat Bay Partnership estimated that the Barnegat Bay watershed contributes between $2 billion and $4 billion in annual economic value to the state.

Juliet Kaszas-Hoch

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