In order to restore wetlands and provide public access to the lower Passaic River and Newark Bay, the state has announced it is awarding $53 million to towns and counties in the watershed area. The money comes from a $190 million settlement between New Jersey and the Occidental Chemical Corp., which is the successor to Diamond Shamrock Chemicals Co. Diamond Shamrock discharged dioxin and other hazardous substances into the river from its Newark plant, where it manufactured Agent Orange.
It is unclear how the remaining $140 million will be spent, although the Christie administration has said that all settlement amounts will be shared 50/50 with the state’s annual operating budget. The cleanup of the waterway itself is being overseen by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, with money that it too negotiated with polluters.
The $53 million in grants were awarded in a competitive process and are being matched by grantees.
The largest of the grants went to the Newark Community Economic Development Corp. for $17.96 million. Newark’s CEDC plans to use the funds to expand Riverfront Park with new paths and trails for walking and running. It also plan to build riparian habitats, buffers, and gardens to help with stormwater management.
The Borough of Carteret received two grants, each for more than $6 million. One, for $6.58 million, will be used for the development of Carteret Waterfront Marina along the Arthur Kill. The other, for $6.67 million, is for the construction of a 1.4-mile walkway along the Arthur Kill.
Passaic County and Passaic City were awarded $5 million to restore public access to the river at Dundee Island in the City of Passaic — the first part of a larger vision of contiguous access to the river.
Essex County was given $5 million for the construction of a boathouse and dock for Newark’s Riverfront Park.
Most of the rest of the awards went to towns along the river to build waterfront parks, including Hackensack, Garfield, Harrison, and Middlesex County. Bloomfield also plans to build a park, with a $3 million grant, but after it converts a flood-prone brownfield site.