By Desirée Taylor
Barnegat Bay’s ecosystem is deteriorating. That’s what Rutgers Scientist Dr. Michael Kennish told members of the Senate and Assembly Environmental Committees today. “Reports show the bay is impaired,” said Kennish, who led a Rutgers multi-year study looking into the health of the bay.
Sen. Bob Smith (D-17) agrees with this assessment. That’s why he’s pushing for a package of bills that would help repair storm basins and limit the Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL, of runoff that enters the waterway. Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a similar bill that addressed TMDLs.
But the governor has won praise for his 10-point plan designed to address the degradation of the bay. Among the provisions of the plan is one that calls for establishing the most restrictive standards in the nation for nitrogen content in fertilizer. The plan also calls for funding storm water mitigation projects and acquiring land in the watershed.
Lawmakers and environmentalists applaud Christie’s efforts as a good starting point. But they want more aggressive action by declaring the bay impaired. “In our position, there’s enough data,” said Britta Forsberg Wenzel, Executive Director of Save Barnegat Bay.
But protecting the bay will be expensive. Sen. Smith estimates it will cost about $100 million over the next 10 to 20 years to repair the 2,000 basins that are malfunctioning. However, he says it’s a worthy investment because Barnegat Bay generates about $3 billion in revenue for the regional economy.