A North Jersey Assemblywoman introduced legislation to fund areas affected by harmful algal blooms (HABs), warming the blooms would return if action is not taken quickly.
Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce’s “NJ Lake Aid for Algal Blooms” legislation would provide funding streams to lake communities harmed by HABs, including Lake Hopatcong and Greenwood Lake, for prevention programs and dollars to satisfy matching-fund requirements.
“Our lake communities cannot suffer another summer like last year,” said Assemblywoman DeCroce. “I still believe the state must provide the millions of dollars in annual funding needed to keep state-owned lakes, such as Lake Hopatcong and Greenwood Lake, clean and healthy. But until that happens, the NJ Lake Aid for Algal Blooms bill can offer some financial relief.”
The proposed law would allow constitutionally dedicated corporate business tax (CBT) revenues in the Preserve New Jersey Green Acres Fund to be used for grants to local governments to fund projects, for the development of lands for recreation and conservation purposes, undertaken for the management of and maintenance of lakes and reservoirs with the aim of preventing or mitigating HABs.
“My bill will allow constitutionally dedicated CBT revenues in the Watershed Management Fund to be used for grants to local governments to fund sewer and stormwater infrastructure projects that reduce pollution pouring into waterways—a key cause of the HABs,” said Assemblywoman DeCroce.
The proposed law would allow municipalities to use Green Acres funds for these purposes and allows these grants to be used as matching funds to secure grants from other state and federal sources.
Hurting Lake Economies
HAB outbreaks began last year prompted state warnings against people entering dozens of New Jersey lakes, devastating local summer economies.
“A town like West Milford on Greenwood Lake is already capped at what they can generate from local taxes because the 2004 Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act has prevented any ratable expansion there,” stated the assemblywoman.
“Even Lake Hopatcong communities are impacted by some Highlands restrictions, so satisfying matching-grant requirements is nearly impossible. This legislation provides direct grants for lake protection and clean-ups, as well as money to put up toward machining grants.”
In November, the state made available $13 million for towns and counties to put toward HAB remedial efforts, requiring 50% in matching funds, which is difficult for cash-strapped lake towns.
The proposal for help in Trenton coincides with the the recent testimony Rep. Josh Gottheimer gave before a House committee about legislation needed to help North Jersey fight the threat of HABs. Gottheimer wants funding funding to more deeply study the causes, and invest in effective solutions.
“Many lake commissions, including Greenwood Lake, are strapped for cash, and would greatly benefit from additional federal investment to prevent further environmental disasters caused by HABs,” said the representative.