NEW JERSEY – The Senate Environment and Energy Committee has advanced bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senator Joe Pennacchio, Senator Anthony Bucco, and Senator Steven Oroho to supply critical funding to maintain Lake Hopatcong, Greenwood Lake, and other lakes in the Highlands and Pinelands regions of New Jersey.
“Our lakes are critical to the ecological and economic well-being of New Jersey, but they have been consistently underfunded by the State,” said Pennacchio (R-26). “This appropriation represents the most significant investment in Lake Hopatcong and Greenwood Lake in recent memory, if not ever. This one time infusion will ensure our lakes get the vital support they need.”
The bipartisan bill (S-2246), also sponsored by Sen. Vin Gopal (D-11), makes a one-time supplemental appropriation of $17 million for Fiscal Year 2024 to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) from the General Fund. The bill directs the DEP to establish a program to use these funds for grants to assist qualified entities to pay certain costs associated with the management and maintenance of lakes for recreation and conservation purposes.
The DEP would be required to develop a process for evaluating and ranking applications for grants, with priority given to projects improving water quality and increasing recreational access, including efforts to control nutrient levels in lakes to prevent harmful algal blooms.
The bill also provides priority funding for projects located in the Highlands Region and Pinelands area in recognition of the critical role lakes in these ecologically significant locations provide in the supply of drinking water to residents throughout the State, watershed protection, and for recreation and conservation purposes.
“Lake Hopatcong and Greenwood Lake are two of the most important destinations for summer recreation in northern New Jersey, so it’s important we guarantee them a significant level of funding,” added Bucco (R-25). “This money will help these lakes address algal blooms and weed proliferation that have threatened both boating and swimming for many years. It’s my hope that this appropriation is just the first step in securing recurring State funding for the future needs of our lakes.”
“Our lake communities have been devastated in back-to-back years by the financial impact of algal blooms and the coronavirus pandemic,” said Oroho (R-24). “After they’ve suffered so much, it is even more critical that the State step up to meet the need. With this substantial appropriation, we will help these important lakes remain healthy and open to the public.”
In the 2020-2021 legislative session, Pennacchio, Bucco, and Oroho sponsored a similar measure that appropriated $10 million to the DEP for the same purpose.