TRENTON (Dec. 19, 2019)--– The Department of Environmental Protection is making $13.5 million in funding available for local projects that will improve water quality and help prevent, mitigate and manage harmful algal blooms (HABs) in New Jersey’s lakes and ponds, Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe announced today, building upon the state’s HAB response strategy announced by Governor Murphy on Nov. 18.
The DEP has formally issued requests for proposals for $3.5 million in grants for planning and projects that will help local management, response and mitigation of harmful algal blooms through proven and innovative projects. This program is open to a wide variety of potential applicants, including local government agencies, academic institutions and nonprofits.
In addition, the DEP has issued a draft Intended Use Plan for public comment that earmarks $10 million in Clean Water State Revolving Fund money as principal-forgiveness (grant-like) funding for projects that address HABs by improving water quality. The DEP is encouraging interested potential applicants, primarily local and county government agencies, to apply for funding available through this program as soon as possible.
“Harmful algal blooms are creating real hardships for the people of New Jersey, affecting livelihoods, local economies and tourism,” Commissioner McCabe said. “The Murphy Administration is committed to moving forward quickly to make financial resources available for local projects that will reduce the occurrence of harmful algal blooms, improving our quality of life and better protecting public health and the environment.”
“I’m very grateful for the State of New Jersey’s partnership and investment to help prevent another summer of algae that wreaked havoc on our lakes, our businesses, our families, and the broader community,” said 5th District U.S. Representative Josh Gottheimer. “This effort will help tackle everything from preventing runoff and improving sewer systems to prevention and treatment projects. This is good for our environment, good for our economy, good for our eco-tourism, and good for the health and safety of our families. It’s a win-win-win.”
Last month, Governor Murphy announced the funding as part of a comprehensive effort to address an increasing number of harmful algal blooms that occurred across the state this year. This effort also includes an enhanced program of science-based prevention, mitigation, study and response.
In all, more than 70 suspected blooms were reported, with 39 confirmed. These blooms resulted in health and water-contact advisories, closures of bathing beaches and, in some cases, had direct impacts on tourism-related businesses.
Specifically, the DEP has issued a request for proposals for harmful algal bloom management matching grants totaling $2.5 million to fund the implementation of innovative or proven projects to manage HABs through prevention and mitigation. Through this 2:1 matching grant, the DEP will enhance its local partners’ investments in HAB prevention and mitigation projects by providing $2 in funding for every $1 invested by a grant applicant.
The DEP has also set aside $1 million from a $3.5 million nonpoint source pollution grant program for watershed or lakeshed planning to address harmful algal blooms by reducing nutrients in stormwater. No local match would be required for an applicant to be eligible for these planning funds.
These grant programs are open to government agencies and organizations, including local, regional, or state government agencies or units; county planning departments or boards; health departments; designated water quality management planning agencies; state universities and colleges; interstate agencies of which New Jersey is a member; and local nonprofit organizations, including watershed and water resource associations.
To view the requests for proposals, including requirements for proposal submissions, and for more information about New Jersey's Water Quality Restoration Grants Program, visit www.nj.gov/dep/wms/bears/npsrestgrants.html
Those interested in applying for grants are strongly encouraged to attend one of the following information sessions:
Harmful algal bloom management: Friday, Dec. 20, from 9:30 a.m. to noon in the Public Hearing Room at the DEP Headquarters, 401 E. State St., Trenton, 08625.
Nonpoint source pollution prevention: Thursday, Jan. 9, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at The Pequest Trout Hatchery and Natural Resource Education Center, 605 Pequest Road, Oxford, 07863, and Wednesday, Jan. 15, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the DEP Public Hearing Room, 401 E. State St., Trenton, 08625.
In addition, the $10 million that the DEP has proposed to make available as principal-forgiveness funding through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund provides potential applicants with a cost-effective way to implement projects, such as wastewater and stormwater improvements, that will reduce pollutants that help fuel harmful algal blooms.
The principal-forgiveness funding (capped at $2 million per project) could cover as much as half the cost of these projects. The DEP and the New Jersey Water Bank will provide the balance through a blend of zero-interest and market-rate funding that results in low-interest loans for applicants. For information, visit www.nj.gov/dep/dwq/cwpl.htm
“We strongly encourage interested parties to reach out to us as soon as possible to take advantage of this unique funding opportunity,” said Michele Putnam, Assistant Commissioner for Water Resources Management. “At this stage, all applicants need is an idea. We will assign a project manager for each project to help guide applicants through design, permitting and program requirements.”
Harmful algal blooms, also known as HABs, are not true algal blooms. Rather, they are caused by naturally occurring cyanobacteria that can reproduce to unhealthful levels under certain conditions, including sunlight, nutrients from sources such as fertilizers and improperly operating septic systems, warm weather and stagnant water. They frequently form dense mats, resembling pea soup or spilled paint.
Exposure to blooms can result in a range of health effects, including rashes, allergy-like reactions, flu-like symptoms, gastroenteritis, respiratory irritation and eye irritation. Exposure to a bloom that is actively producing cyanotoxins may result in more serious health effects, including liver toxicity and neurological effects. People, pets and wildlife are susceptible to adverse health effects if they come into contact with or ingest water that is experiencing a bloom. For more information on harmful algal blooms, visit www.state.nj.us/dep/hab