Last month, the NJDEP announced $13.5 million in funding available for local projects to improve water quality and to prevent harmful algal blooms (“HABs”). HABs affected numerous fresh water bodies in New Jersey last summer, most notably, Lake Hopatcong and Greenwood Lake. The funding includes $3.5 million in grants for which NJDEP has issued requests for proposals (“RFPs”) to local governmental authorities, interstate agencies, academic institutions and non-profit organizations. The program also includes $10 million in Clean Water Revolving Fund money as principal forgiveness funding for local and county government projects. The details of the announcement are here, and the RFPs are here. Responses to an RFP for Grants to Prevent, Mitigate and/or Control of Freshwater HABs are due by Monday, January 13, 2020, while responses to an RFP for Water Quality Restoration Grants for Nonpoint Source Pollution are due by Monday, February 10, 2020.
HAB is the name given to the excessing growth or “bloom” of cyanobacteria due to excessive light, elevated temperatures and/or elevated nutrient loads in the water. HABs can harm both people and pets that drink or swim in HAB waters by causing rashes, allergy-like reactions, flu-like symptoms, gastroenteritis, and irritations to eyes and respiration. The NJDEP has also advised that fish or shellfish caught from waters with HAB should not be eaten. The NJDEP recently issued an HAB fact sheet that provides a summary of HABs and how to report an HAB.
Last summer, 70 suspected HABs were reported, with 39 confirmed. Closings of beaches and limitations on recreation at lakes negatively impacted summer tourism in 2019, which the State does not want to experience again in 2020. The HAB mitigation projects will presumably be aimed at reducing surface water runoff and improving drainage systems to mitigate contaminant loading into surface waters that cause HABs. These funding incentives will certainly encourage the control of non-point pollution sources that cause HABs.