New Jersey will spend $10 million on projects to prevent storm water pollution from entering the ecologically fragile Barnegat Bay, authorities said Friday.
The state Department of Environmental Protection announced grants to nonprofit groups, local governments, and state colleges and universities that will institute projects to prevent polluted runoff from entering the 660-acre watershed.
Barnegat Bay is one of the most ecologically threatened bays in the nation and is the subject of various efforts to improve its water quality.
It’s a major recreational area, but the heavy development that comes along with that has greatly increased stress on the bay as paved surfaces allow pollutants to wash into the waterway.
“Reducing the impacts of storm water runoff is one of the biggest challenges we face in the Barnegat Bay watershed,” said Commissioner Catherine McCabe of the environmental protection department. “We applaud these grant awardees for the passion they have for enhancing and protecting a natural resource that is truly a New Jersey treasure.”
Many environmentalists say that slowing development near the bay, or even moving some of it back from the water’s edge, is necessary to truly help the bay’s water quality improve. But given the immense value of waterfront property, the state has not taken such steps.
Instead, it unveiled a 10-point program in 2010 that included the nation’s toughest limits on the amount of nitrogen that can be sold in fertilizer in an effort to reduce nutrients that flow into the bay and harm water quality.
Some of the projects announced Friday include storm water collection basins; shoreline stabilization; and work to deal with stinging jellyfish.
And more than a half million dollars will go to study and restore submerged vegetation in the bay, which is crucial to the overall health of the waterway.