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Fine Print: Senate Bill 1411

Sen. Robert Smith is looking to restrict the use of nitrogen-heavy fertilizers near bodies of water, helping to preserve fish and other aquatic life.

Sponsor: Sen. Robert Smith (D-Middlesex), chairman of Senate Environment and Energy Committee

Synopsis:This bill would set new standards for applying fertilizers as well as providing for increased training and certification of professional fertilizer applicators. It also would regulate the sale of certain fertilizers with the aim of limiting use of phosphorous and nitrogen.

What It Means:This bill is expected to be a cornerstone of a package of legislation aimed at preserving Barnegat Bay. The bay is threatened by eutrophication, a condition caused by high levels of phosphorus and nitrogen in the water. The condition, which results in wide variations in dissolved oxygen and pH levels, is detrimental to aquatic life. The bill seeks to protect the bay and other state waters by prohibiting applying fertilizer within 25 feet of any body of water and using fertilizer before March 1 or after November 15, among other things.

Key Section: Restricts the use of fertilizer containing water-soluble nitrogen and would ban fertilizer containing phosphorus, except under certain conditions. The bill would require fertilizer manufacturers to conform to the restrictions it spells out, a step likely to be strongly opposed when the legislation comes up for consideration in committees.

Prospects:Preserving and ending various threats to Barnegat Bay is one of Smith’s top priorities during the current legislative term. His efforts will be strongly backed by conservation and land use groups, but equally resisted by a wide variety of interests. The bill has been the subject of many backroom discussions and is still not in its final form. Smith generally gets his way to move bills out of committee, but whether he and the other sponsors can steer this bill through both houses remains in question.

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