January 5, 2010-- NJ Environmental Federation celebrated an incredible victory today when three bills designed to protect Barnegat Bay and help fix statewide water quality problems were signed into law.
At a press conference in Waretown on Barnegat Bay, NJ Environmental Federation, legislators, local residents and other environmental advocates praised the Christie Administration's efforts to protect Barnegat Bay, improve public health and welfare, and give a boost to New Jersey's $40 billion shore tourism economy.The legislation, pushed by Democratic lawmakers, target nutrient runoff from lawn and landscape fertilizers, soil restoration and stormwater basin repairs.
The bills are critical for protecting all of New Jersey's waters. The $10 million in funding up front and more to follow for Barnegat Bay are significant, especially given the economic and budget climate," said David Pringle, NJ Environmental Federation's Campaign Director. "The TMDL and SAMP provisions have the potential to cleanup the Bay in the long-term."
"These are the first concrete steps taken, combined with the closing of Oyster Creek, to protect Barnegat Bay," said Governor Christie. "We will not lose our focus on this issue. We know there is more to do and we will continue to do it."
As part of a 10 point Barnegat Bay protection plan announced last year, the Christie Administration has started taking the initial steps to address Barnegat Bay's nutrient pollution and storm water runoff problems.
Just last month, the state announced shutting down Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station (the nation's oldest nuclear plant with the worst safety record) in 2019-10 years earlier than expected, an issue NJ Environmental Federation, Grandmothers Mothers and More for Energy Safety, and other groups have been advocating for years.
The plant sucks 1.4 billion gallons a day from the bay into its pipes, and discharges warmer water back into the bay, which hurts water quality.
The planned closure also opens up new avenues for the state to pursue green technology."Today we are embarking on an organized phase out to green power," said Amy Goldsmith, NJ Environmental Federation's State Director. "We now have more tools at our disposal to save the bay, and prevent future public and ecological harm from radiation, fishkills, and thermal pollution. We will continue our work as advocates with the Administration and all stakeholders to restore the Bay and ensure a just transition for workers."
Toughest in the Nation
One of the bills signed into law today will impose the nation's toughest restrictions on the sale and use of lawn fertilizer, considered a significant contributor of excessive nutrients that are driving ecological change in the bay.
Runoff from fertilizer applied to lawns and farms eventually makes its way into waterways and contributes to water pollution and fish-killing algae blooms. It also encourages the growth of stinging jellyfish, which have overrun the bay and rivers near it, including the Manasquan and Metedeconk, making them virtually unswimmable at times and clogging the engines of some boats.
A key provision of the fertilizer law requires that at least 20 percent of nitrogen in fertilizer sold in New Jersey be the slow-release type to prevent it from easily washing into waterways. Two years following the bills enactment, the bill prohibits the sale or application of fertilizers containing phosphorus, except in limited conditions.
Additionally, homeowners will be prohibited from applying fertilizer between November 15th and March 1st, or at any time when the ground is frozen. Professional fertilizer applicators are subject to the same restrictions, with the exception that they can apply fertilizer until December 1, provided the ground is not frozen.
"Believe me, we got a lot of pushback from that industry," Christie said. "But it's more important for our health and our psychic health to have a bay that is still swimmable and fishable."
The soil restoration and fertilizer standards are groundbreaking and could set a national example to be used for fixing other distressed coastal waters.
"It will benefit Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes and waterways all around the country," said David Pringle.
A fourth Barnegat Bay bill that passed the state legislature as part of the Barnegat Bay package is still under legal review. It would establish a total daily maximum load for nutrients like nitrogen that can be allowed to enter the bay each day.