Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation Friday appropriating $10 million in grants for lake conservation and management efforts, including the mitigation of the notorious harmful algal blooms, which have been responsible for beach closures issued by the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection. The bill (A5778/S3618), sponsored by Assemblyman Hal Wirths and co-sponsored by Assemblymen Brian Bergen and Parker Space, will prioritize projects that involve lakes with public access.
“Businesses and communities surrounding our state lakes cannot afford another shutdown, whether it’s due to the Covid pandemic or harmful algal blooms,” Wirths (R-Sussex) said. “This law ensures we are making smart investments in programs that will preserve our freshwater lakes for the recreational enjoyment of tourists and the economic prosperity of lakefront business owners.”
Under the new law, qualified entities like the Greenwood Lake Commission, the Lake Hopatcong Commission, the Deal Lake Commission and the Lake Topanemus Park Commission, may apply to the state DEP for grants to help pay for certain maintenance costs associated with lake recreation and conservation.
Further, the law requires the DEP to approve applications submitted by the Greenwood Lake Commission and the Lake Hopatcong Commission, with each commission guaranteed a minimum grant award of $750,000.
“Lakes like Hopatcong are an economic driver for an entire region,” Bergen (R-Morris) said. “Proper lake maintenance will allow communities to maintain revenue generating activity, while also ensuring a safe environment for swimmers.”
Harmful algal blooms occur when colonies of microscopic algae or bacteria grow at exponential rates and produce toxins harmful to humans and animals. When the blue-green algae concentrates rise above the state’s safety threshold, the DEP closes the lakes to recreational activities and swimming.
“Our freshwater lakes in this state are valuable assets. This law demonstrates our commitment to preserving public access and supporting small businesses that rely on lake activity,” Space (R-Sussex) said.