Assemblywoman DeCroce Introduces ‘NJ Lake Aid for Algal Blooms’ Bill to Fund Clean-ups

Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce (File Photo)

PARSIPPANY — Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce today announced her introduction of the “NJ Lake Aid for Algal Blooms” legislation, providing funding streams to lake communities devastated by harmful algal blooms (HABs), such as Lake Hopatcong and Greenwood Lake, for prevention programs and dollars to satisfy matching-fund requirements.

“My bill will allow constitutionally dedicated corporate business tax (CBT) revenues in the “Watershed Management Fund” to be used for grants to local governments to fund sewer and stormwater infrastructure projects that reduce pollution pouring into waterways – a key cause of the HABs. The bill also will explicitly allow these grants to be used as matching funds for other state and federal grant programs designed to keep lakes clean.” said Assemblywoman DeCroce.

The NJ Lake Aid for Algal Blooms legislation, A-2864, also will allow constitutionally dedicated CBT revenues in the “Preserve New Jersey Green Acres Fund” to be used for grants to local governments to fund projects, for the development of lands for recreation and conservation purposes, undertaken for the management of and maintenance of lakes and reservoirs with the aim of preventing or mitigating HABs. The bill explicitly allows municipalities to use Green Acres funds for these purposes. The bill also allows these grants to be used as matching funds to secure grants from other state and federal sources.

HAB outbreaks that began last spring prompted state warnings against people entering dozens of New Jersey lakes, devastating local summer economies, particularly around Lake Hopatcong and Greenwood Lake. In November, the state announced it will make available $13 million statewide for towns and counties to put toward HAB remedial efforts, but the program requires they pay 50 percent in matching funds, which is difficult for cash-strapped lake towns.

“A town like West Milford on Greenwood Lake is already capped at what they can generate from local taxes because the 2004 Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act has prevented any ratable expansion there,” said Assemblywoman DeCroce. “Even Lake Hopatcong communities are impacted by some Highlands restrictions, so satisfying matching-grant requirements is nearly impossible. This legislation provides direct grants for lake protection and clean-ups, as well as money to put up toward machining grants.”

The Assemblywoman warned that HABs are certain to re-emerge if action is not taken quickly.

“Our lake communities cannot suffer another summer like last year,” said Assemblywoman DeCroce. “I still believe the state must provide the millions of dollars in annual funding needed to keep state-owned lakes, such as Lake Hopatcong and Greenwood Lake, clean and healthy. But until that happens, the “NJ Lake Aid for Algal Blooms” bill can offer some financial relief.”