*** MONDAY ADVISORY *** ASSEMBLY TO CONSIDER McKEONGUSCIORAVAINIERI HUTTLE FERTILIZER BILL & CHIVUKULAMcKEON SOIL RESTORATION MEASURE TO TURN THE TIDE ON DEGRADATION OF BARNEGAT BAY

*** MONDAY ADVISORY ***

ASSEMBLY TO CONSIDER McKEONGUSCIORAVAINIERI HUTTLE FERTILIZER BILL & CHIVUKULAMcKEON SOIL RESTORATION MEASURE TO TURN THE TIDE ON DEGRADATION OF BARNEGAT BAY

(TRENTON) – Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee Chairman John F. McKeon announced that the fertilizer bill which is up for a vote in Monday’s Assembly session is the most critical in a multi-bill package to reduce nutrient pollution in Barnegat Bay.

Nutrient pollution, the central threat to the 660-square mile watershed, has resulted in the deterioration of water quality and the destruction of vast quantities of diverse plant and sea life native to the bay. Some 1.4 million pounds of nitrogen, enough to fill 70,000 twenty pound bags of fertilizer, reportedly flow into the bay every year.

The measure (A-2290) sponsored by McKeon, Assembly Environment Vice-Chair Reed Gusciora and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri-Huttle would establish new standards for the application and content of fertilizers to reduce pollution run-off into the watershed.

“Rapid overdevelopment and elevated levels of phosphorus and nitrogen threaten to degrade Barnegat Bay into a toxic soup,” McKeon (D-Essex) said. “Monday’s historic vote in the Assembly will bring us closer to the goal line of saving the bay by empowering New Jersey with the strongest legislation in the nation to reduce nutrient pollution from fertilizer run-off,” McKeon (D-Essex) said.

A soil restoration measure, sponsored by Assemblyman Upendra J. Chivukula and McKeon is also up for a Monday vote. This bill (A-2501) would reverse the impact of compaction which deprives soil of its natural ability to absorb water thus increasing storm water and pollution run-off.

“By developing standards to restore the content and density of soil during construction projects, this measure would make developers responsible for preserving the natural ability of landscape to prevent storm water from leaching into the estuary,” Chivukula (D-SomersetMiddlesex) said.

The fertilizer bill would require that at least 20 percent of the nitrogen in all lawn fertilizers be in slow-release form. It would set buffers between the turf on which the fertilizer is applied and the bay’s water bodies. It also would prohibit the use of fertilizer during heavy rainfall and ban the use of phosphorus – with some exceptions.

“Legislative action has been long overdue in protecting the Barnegat Bay, one of New Jersey’s most unique natural habitats,” Gusciora (D-Princeton) said. “The fertilizer bill that was approved in Monday’s Assembly session is crucial to assuring the health and beauty of our waterways. It will not only protect fish and other aquatic life, but also reduce pollution in our waters.”

The high level of chemicals in the bay have also resulted in the explosion of creatures like stinging jellyfish that feed on nutrient pollution. These can be harmful to humans and have hurt the area’s lucrative fisheries industry by devouring species native to the bay including sea grass, clams and shellfish.

“By reducing nutrient pollution, this measure would reduce the growth of harmful creatures that cause great discomfort to visitors to the bay and act as a deterrent to tourists,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “The fertilizer bill will reverse decades of neglect of one of our most unique waterways and also educate home-owners on the responsible use of fertilizers.” 

Various other bills that form part of a multi-bill package to reduce contamination in the watershed continue to advance through the Legislature. Thursday’s Assembly Environment panel approved a multi-bill package to help revive the health of the bay.

These include a measure (A-3415) that would require the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to develop Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) as a pollution budget for the bay so that it complies with state and federal standards for water quality.

By using a comprehensive scientific evaluation of the estuary and the pollution entering it, the TMDL determines how much pollution must be reduced to restore the bay back to health. This would be in keeping with federal standards established by the Clean Water Act.

A second measure (AR-120) approved by Thursday’s panel calls on the federal Environmental Protection Agency to tap into its expertise in water quality restoration to provide technical assistance and funding to help the DEP develop the TDMLs for Barnegat Bay. The EPA has been working on the development of TDMLs for Chesapeake Bay.

The final total maximum daily load for the Chesapeake Bay project is expected to be established by Dec. 31, 2010, with the goal of full implementation of pollution controls by 2025.

An additional bill (A-3606) would prevent dirty water from leaching into the estuary by implementing more effective storm water management. It would require the state Department of Transportation (DOT) and the New Jersey Turnpike Authority (NJTA) to identify the malfunctioning storm water basins in Ocean County and include the cost of retrofitting and repairing them in their annual capitol budgets in order of priority.

Of the estimated 2700 storm basins in Ocean County, hundreds are in disrepair, causing water to leak into the bay without being filtered.

The Assembly voting session is slated to begin at 1 p.m. It will be streamed live at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/media/live_audio.asp.

Sixty-six percent of the nitrogen pollution flowing into the Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor estuary comes from surface water. Most of it is from the Metedeconk River and Toms River basins which have experienced intensive development in recent years.

Overdevelopment in the watershed area that includes parts of Monmouth and all of Ocean County has led to the loss of much of the shoreline and the destruction of wetlands.

Ocean is the fastest growing county in the state. Its population has more than doubled since 1970 with 370,000 new residents moving into the county over the last four decades.

The development went up from 18 percent of the watershed in 1972 to a current level of 30 percent.

“Barnegat Bay is an ecological treasure as well as an important economic driver for our state, contributing more than $3.3 billion to the region’s economy,” McKeon said. “Experts predict the collapse of the ecosystems of our state’s largest enclosed estuary within a generation if we fail to take preventive action. These measures would help us revive this valuable estuary.”

The Jersey shore is the lifeblood of the state’s tourism industry, generating an estimated $16 to $18 billion in annual revenues. Tourism is also the state’s third-largest employer. For every 161 visitors, one new job is created. The watershed area is a major tourist attraction that hosts more than 1.4 million people every summer including an estimated 500,000 visitors.

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Contact:

Gita Bajaj
(973) 224-4851 cellular
gbajaj@njleg.org email
bajajgita@yahoo.com email

*** MONDAY ADVISORY *** ASSEMBLY TO CONSIDER McKEONGUSCIORAVAINIERI HUTTLE FERTILIZER BILL & CHIVUKULAMcKEON SOIL RESTORATION MEASURE TO TURN THE TIDE ON DEGRADATION OF BARNEGAT BAY