DEP, LOCAL OFFICIALS MARK OPENING OF STATE-OF-THE ART
STORMWATER BASINS AT OCEAN COUNTY COLLEGE
(12/P68) TRENTON - The Christie Administration’s commitment to the long-term ecological recovery of Barnegat Bay reached a milestone today with ceremonies marking the opening of three state-of-the-art stormwater basins at Ocean County College that will help address nutrient pollution in the watershed.
The projects, made possible through the work of the Department of Environmental Protection and the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust (NJEIT), utilize innovative gravel wetlands technology to filter pollutants that can degrade water quality. They are the first of their kind to be constructed in New Jersey.
“A healthy Barnegat Bay is critical to the state’s tourism economy and quality of life for residents of the watershed,” DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said during ceremonies at the college, located in Toms River. “Restoring the bay from decades of decline is a key environmental priority of the Christie Administration. I commend Ocean County for working closely with the DEP and NJEIT to take concrete actions to address the estuary’s single biggest source of ecological stress – stormwater pollution.”
“The health of Barnegat Bay is important to the students, staff and faculty at Ocean County College,” said college President Jon Larson. “We are proud to partner with the county freeholders and the DEP to do our part in protecting and enhancing this estuary.”
The improvements represent the next generation of stormwater control technology, said Freeholder-Director John C. Bartlett Jr.
“In the 1970s, basins were designed for flood control. In the 1990s, we began addressing water quality like removing trash and sediments from stormwater. Now this next step deals with nutrient removal,” he said. “This work complements the ongoing work we are doing with our Planning Department to help preserve and protect the bay.
Reducing the impacts of stormwater pollution through upgrades to outdated stormwater control systems is the second action item in Governor Christie’s 10-point plan for restoration of Barnegat Bay, launched in December 2010.
This plan sets in place multifaceted strategies to restore and enhance the bay, including negotiating the safe closure 10-years ahead of schedule of the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant, efforts to reduce stormwater pollution, expand water monitoring and develop water quality standards, close key gaps in scientific data, improve public stewardship of the bay, and preserve land in its 660-square-mile watershed.
The DEP and NJEIT, an independent state financing authority, have been working closely with local government agencies throughout the watershed to develop and fund projects that will reduce the effects of stormwater pollution through upgrades to stormwater-control systems, construction of wetlands and purchases of equipment.
So far NJEIT and the DEP have made more than $20 million in low-interest and grant-like loans available to local governments for projects to reduce the impacts of stormwater.
The Ocean County Board of Freeholders last year received $4.69 million to retrofit eight stormwater basins, including three that collect and discharge stormwater to Silver Bay, a tributary of Barnegat Bay. The basins were already under construction when funding became available to provide the more advanced gravel technology.
“The Trust’s core mission is protection and enhancement of water quality throughout the state,” said NJEIT Executive Director David Zimmer “We are proud to provide local governments with the financial support that they need to restore Barnegat Bay, an estuary that is important to the state economically, ecologically and aesthetically. These retrofit projects at Ocean County College are a win for everyone.”
The newly constructed system uses native vegetation and gravel to significantly reduce nitrogen in stormwater before it enters Silver Bay. Nitrogen is a nutrient that contributes to excessive growth of algae that is impairing water quality in the bay.
“As we have seen by overwhelming responses to two DEP-sponsored watershed-wide Barnegat Bay Blitz cleanups, public interest in bringing the bay back is high,” Commissioner Martin said. “A great deal of work still lies ahead, but we are building a solid foundation for restoring the bay.”
The Governor’s 10-point plan of action to address the short- and long-term ecological health of Barnegat Bay can be found at: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/barnegatbay/.