New Jersey commits $13 million to fight algae

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On Lake Hopatcong, the biggest lake in the state, blooms were common last summer.

On Lake Hopatcong, the biggest lake in the state, blooms were common last summer.

New Jersey governor Phil Murphy announced that his administration will provide more than $13 million to fund an initiative to reduce and prevent future algal blooms in the state. In its Currents newsletter, the National Marine Manufacturers Association applauded the program that will fund prevention, mitigation, study and response efforts across the state.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy

Jay Muller, a world champion powerboat racer, lives on Lake Hopatcong, the largest lake in New Jersey. “It was terrible on certain parts of the lake,” he told Trade Only Today.

Bob Mulvihill, owner of a waterfront pub on the lake, told Trade Only Today that his business stayed steady, but at the state park at the other end of the lake, weekend business for boating and swimming was way off. “It had people concerned,” said Mulvihill. “The people who come up from the city to swim and boat weren’t doing so.” He added, “Anything (the state) wants to do for the lake is helpful.”

In a statement, Governor Murphy said, “The presence of harmful algal blooms in New Jersey’s water bodies severely impacts our public health and economy. The rise of harmful algal blooms is a global challenge and our initiative to reduce future blooms will allow us to protect the health of our residents, as well as the economies of our lake communities. I am grateful for the continued collaboration with our local, state and federal partners to proactively address this environmental challenge and become a national model for reducing the occurrence of harmful algal blooms.”

In 2019, there were more than 70 suspected and 39 confirmed harmful algal blooms in New Jersey, higher than the previous two years. The new initiative will include three components to prevent algal blooms from forming in the state’s waters. The first component provides more than $13 million in funding to local communities to reduce blooms.

Breaking down the distribution of funds, $2.5 million will be available as matching funds for lakes and algal bloom management grants, including treatment and prevention demonstration projects. New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection will issue a request for proposals this month. The department will offer a 100-percent match with successful proposals, which will result in $5 million worth of funding for the projects.

In early December, New Jersey will make up to $1 million in Watershed Grant funding available for planning and projects that reduce the nonpoint source pollution, including nutrients, that contribute to algal blooms in surface waters of the state. A match won’t be required but will improve the project ranking.

Additionally, the state will offer $10 million in principal forgiveness grants through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund for half of the cost, capped at $2 million, of sewer and stormwater upgrades to reduce the flow of nutrients to affected waterways.

The second element of the initiative is to build on the state’s ability to respond to a bloom. This includes establishing a team of experts to evaluate the state’s strategies to prevent them and pursue additional monitoring.

The final component increases the DEP’s ability to communicate with affected communities. The department will host two regional summits in early 2020 to better share information ahead of the warmer months when blooms start to appear. The DEP will develop new web tools and continue to assist local governments with stormwater and septic discharge compliance.

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