in N.J. eligible for new
Barnegat Bay one of two
in N.J. eligible for new
By Karl Vilacoba
The Barnegat Bay Estuary has moved a step higher on a short list of candidates that could be eligible to receive grants for environmental protection from a $21 million purse under a new federal program.
The federal Watershed Initiative offers funds toward community-based approaches to protecting inland and coastal watersheds. A grant application prepared by the Ocean County Planning Department, the Brick Township Municipal Utilities Authority (BTMUA) and the Barnegat Bay Estuary Program was chosen along with the Stony Brook Watershed as the two state nominees by Gov. James McGreevey and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
At a Thursday press conference in Toms River, state, county and local officials expressed appreciation for the nomination along with confidence in receiving a final selection for funding by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“We’re ready to rumble, and I’m very confident we’re going to be successful,” said Brick Mayor Joseph Scarpelli.
Scarpelli, along with BTMUA Chairman Daniel Newman and Executive Director Kevin Donald, said initiatives taken in Brick to protect the Metedeconk River would make them natural leaders in coordinating such an initiative. In addition to the new pumped storage reservoir under construction, BTMUA officials have done extensive mapping and taken more than 500,000 water samples on the river in recent years to study the environment of the Metedeconk.Scarpelli also cited the township’s efforts to protect the watershed by buying recent open space purchases close to the waters.
Newman said that part of the grant program would involve coordinating efforts with other towns, a task that could be sensitive.
“We’re going to be as careful as we can not to come across as telling towns what to do in terms of land use,” Newman said.
Assemblyman David Wolfe (R-10th District), who said he once served as a Township Council member in Brick, predicted that cooperation would prevail among the Barnegat Bay communities.
“We’re not at war here,” Wolfe said. “We’re finally at peace, and we’re working together on this.”
The Metedeconk watershed, which encompasses about 70 square miles, is the northernmost component of the 660-square-mile Barnegat Bay Watershed. Located in southern Monmouth and northern Ocean counties, all of its waters eventually flow to the Barnegat Bay.
Ocean County Freeholder James Lacey said the estuary’s proximity to the ocean often causes people to take water shortages lightly, but the growth rate in the Ocean County area has made the situation serious. Lacey and others praised Rep. James Saxton (R-3) for his efforts in lobbying for the nomination, as well as the Barnegat Bay’s previous designation as one of 28 National Estuary Program (NEP) sites in the nation. Other bodies of water included in the NEP are the Tampa and Delaware bays.
The NEP status resulted in a separate $331,500 EPA grant to protect the bay in October.
“We’re a small body of water, but we have the same designation as some of these larger bays and estuaries,” Lacey said.