Barnegat Bay Legislation
Barnegat Bay succeeded in winning passage of four bills in 2010. The primary sponsors, Senator Bob Smith and Assemblyman John McKeon, crafted bills proposed by the conservationcommunity that will provide a new measure of protection for the waters of Barnegat Bay and throughout the State.
It is important to realize that these bills require next steps by the administration to develop regulations. They are critical measures, but more will have to be done to control development of the Bay's watershed before the Bay will return to its natural health and productivity.
- Total Maximum Daily Load for Nutrients: S2341/A3415 requires the state's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to determine whether Barnegat Bay is "impaired" due to excessive nutrients (that is, over-feeding with nitrogen and phosphorous), and, if it is, to adopt total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) for Barnegat Bay ecosystem. The bill also requires DEP to adopt nutrient standards for NJ marine waters, like Barnegat Bay. The TMDL has to include an implementation plan describing demonstrable reduction measures and a schedule with annual benchmarks to ensure implementation. The bill also directs DEP to use existing mechanisms and best management practices during the study and development of the TMDL, so that actions can be taken right away to protect and restore the Bay.
Governor Christie issued a conditional veto for the TMDL bill. The changes include removing the assertion that the Bay is impaired and directing NJDEP to make that assertion; extending the timeline for development of the TMDL, but requiring the impairment determination, development and implementation of a TMDL in five years. The conditional veto was made in 2011.
Senator Smith has just re-introduced the legislation (S1414) in the hopes that his new version will spur some type of action by the Governor to declare the Bay impaired, which is a necessary first step before a TMDL can be developed.
- Fertilizers: S2554/A2990 establishes standards for certain fertilizer applications on lawns. Lawn fertilizing is one of the main culprits in the overload of nutrients reaching Barnegat Bay and some other waters. Homeowners may only apply fertilizers to turf between March 1st and November 15th in any calendar year and are not to apply fertilizer at any time when the ground is frozen. Professional fertilizer applicators are under the same requirements except they can apply fertilizer up to December 1st. The law also requires certification of professional fertilizer applicators, and regulates labeling and sale to require 20% slow release nitrogen, and eliminate phosphorous altogether, in all lawn fertilizers sold by retailers. These measures will limit the amount of nutrients that enter waterways and Bays through runoff from suburban lawns. Not only will these requirements help to reduce the nitrogen loadings into the Bay, but the waterways in other developed regions throughout New Jersey will hopefully see an improvement in water quality as well. This statewide fertilizer legislation is the first in the United States and is a great success.
The Fertilizer Law is now in effect. Individuals and landscapers must follow the state requirements. More information about these requirements can be found here - http://www.nj.gov/dep/healthylawnshealthywater/.
- Soil Restoration: S1410/A2501 requires the State Soil Conservation Committee to adopt standards concerning soil restoration measures. The intent of this legislation is to restore soils that have become compacted due to development activities. Compacted soils do not absorb rainfall and snowmelt, thus increasing the amount of surface runoff that flows into streams and wetlands. The soil under lawns, for example, is usually highly compacted before the turf is placed on top of it. Because this runoff carries nutrients and other contaminants, restoring soils to their natural functions will reduce the nutrients that make their way into Barnegat Bay and other water bodies.
The State Soil Conservation Committee has developed standards for soil restoration which are available for public comment http://www.state.nj.us/agriculture/divisions/anr/nrc/2012erosioncontrolstandards.html . PPA participated in the sub-committee that was formed to create these standards. PPA has concerns about the final standards as it does not incorporate post-disturbance soil restoration practices that will ensure maximum stormwater infiltration. Comments are due by October 1st and individuals can view our letter here.
- Stormwater Basins: S2275/A3606 requires the state Department of Transportation (DOT) to study stormwater basins in Barnegat Bay watershed and requires DOT and NJ Turnpike Authority to include repairs of stormwater structures associated with their roads in capital project plans. Many stormwater basins and structures are simply not working, and some of these are built and maintained by DOT. These basins are essential to capturing stormwater and infiltrating that water back into the ground, where contaminants can be diluted and captured in the soil. The repair of these structures, along with privately-owned stormwater basins, is another piece to the puzzle in solving Barnegat Bay's problems.
It is important to thank the bill's sponsors in your region who can be found at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/ . Search for the bill numbers listed above.
Two additional bills have been approved by the state legislature to help reverse the degradation of Barnegat Bay, but the Governor is not willing to support.
- Ocean County Stormwater Management System Demonstration Act (S820) authorizes the creation of a stormwater utility authority or for the Ocean County Planning Department to assume the role of the authority to create a stormwater management system to manage the stormwater runoff of the county. The provisions of this act are completely voluntary, so the creation of a stormwater management system would have to be created by Ocean County or some other local utility authority. Governor Christie has yet to sign this bill.
- Ocean County Planning Board authorized to control stormwater runoff (S821) by creating a stormwater management plan and creating a formula for assessing a fee for any new development within Barnegat Bay watershed. Regardless of its voluntary nature, Governor Christie vetoed this bill. PPA wonders if the Governor is truly interested in reversing the degradation of Barnegat Bay.
There is still more work to be done, and PPA will continue to advocate for the protection of Barnegat Bay and other water resources throughout the Pinelands as these bills are being implemented.