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Bill to Clean Up Barnegat Bay Passes Senate Committee

Date : Tue, 31 Jan 2012 12:30:39 -0500

/For Immediate Release/
January 30, 2012 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100


*Bill to Clean Up Barnegat Bay Passes Senate Committee*

** Non-point source pollution is one of the biggest problems impacting the Barnegat Bay and dilapidated storm water systems allow for more of these pollutants to enter the Bay.Today the Senate Environment Committee released a bill that would help to stop that pollution by retrofitting and maintaining stormwater detention basins in the watershed.The bill *S1085 *(Smith) or "Adopt a Barnegat Bay Stormwater Management Basin Act" would allow the state, counties, and local governments to enter into partnerships or "stormwater management agreements" with businesses and non-profit groups toclean up stormwater and improve the health of the Barnegat Bay.The agreements would cover the construction and operation of the basins and provide funding for supplies and services.The bill also provides a tax credit to groups that participate in the program.Governor Christie vetoed two bills last year aimed at reducing pollution in stormwater from entering the Bay and we thank the Senate Environment Committee for taking up this important issue again.

"Addressing stormwater management issues is a major step forward to protect Barnegat Bay," *NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said.* "We have to address the stormwater management and nonpoint source pollution issues in the Bay otherwise we are going to turn the Barnegat Bay into the state's largest stormwater detention basin as the Bay continues to die." The biggest threat to the Bay comes from storm water runoff and non point pollution from oil, fertilizers, and pets. This legislation helps to address those concerns but should not make up for efforts to implement a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), which would require that action be taken to limit those nutrients from entering the Bay. Last year the Governor vetoed the Stormwater Utility Authority Bill**that would havedeveloped stormwater utility guidance for Ocean County and would have provided the funds to maintain, improve, clean up, and fix old storm water systems.This legislation would have allowed municipalities and counties to set up storm water utilities that could then develop a funding mechanism to clean up storm water. He also vetoed legislation on stormwater planning that would have allowed the county to charge a small fee to plan for local and regional stormwater systems. Instead Governor Christie offered stormwater fundingto towns that has always been available to them and is actually required under the EPA's Clean Water Act phase 2 municipal stormwater program, through the Environmental Infrastructure Trust.This funding is very small with very little impact.That is why we need the legislature to act now to put the funding in place to begin retrofitting and improving these systems. Commercial and residential development in the area is a continuous threat to the Barnegat Bay.Construction increases runoff and sedimentation which causes a decrease in water quality.Simultaneously freshwater is being drawn out of the underlying aquifer at a rate faster than recharge. A saltier Bay leads to increased nutrient levels and higher concentration of those nutrients.This funding is a first step in cleaning up the Bay but we also need to address the land use issues that create this stormwater and non-point source pollution as well.

"The Sierra Club is pleased that the legislature is turning its attention to addressing nonpoint pollution in the Bay. This is a step in the right direction, however, the key pieces to protecting the bay -- limiting overdevelopment and implementing cooling towers on Oyster Creek are still necessary," *said Jeff Tittel*. Barnegat Bay is the Jersey Shore's most heavily used body of water.On a summer weekend 100,000 people can be boating on the bay at different times. The Bay is a critical part of New Jersey's $4 billion tourism industry and there is worth a $100 billion in ratables in and around the Bay. If we allow the bay to die, we lose that portion of the economy.

"What's important to save the bay is to get beyond local and parochial interest.The current system is broken.If we don't change things the bay will die.This legislation is even more important now, given the Christie Administration's attacks on the environment -- conditionally vetoing the TMDL bill, weakening stormwater protections, delaying water quality planning rules, allowing sewers to be put into environmentally sensitive area -- are all affecting Barnegat Bay,"*Tittel said*.

Kate Millsaps
Program Assistant
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
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