BY TOM HESTER SR.
Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday signed three bipartisan bills that provide $650 million in state and federal money for no-cost or low-cost loans for water quality projects in New Jersey.
The financing, to be administered as a revolving loan program through the state Environmental Infrastructure (EIT) Financing Program, makes available $400 million for clean water project loans and $250 million for drinking water project loans. The federal government will finance at least half of the cost.
“There can be no compromise when it comes to the integrity of the state’s water infrastructure systems and the impact they have on our environmental treasures, like Barnegat Bay,” Christie said. “The bills I am signing today will fund critical projects that protect our ground and surface water resources, ensure the safety of drinking water supplies, and enable responsible and sustainable economic development vital to New Jersey’s ecological future.”
The governor signed A-4055, A-4056 and A-4057 at a ceremony in Barnegat Township, part of the Barnegat Bay watershed that is the focus of his 10-Point Comprehensive Barnegat Bay Restoration Plan.
Included in the legislation is the authorization of approximately $16 million in grant-like funding for projects that will help protect, maintain and improve the water quality of the bay, with $1 million available to county and local governments to purchase stormwater maintenance equipment to help eliminate pollutants that could end up in the waterway.
“Controlling pollution and providing safe, abundant drinking water requires significant capital investment," state Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said. "Environmental infrastructure is costly to build and maintain, and EIT's financing program helps keep costs to the public as low as possible; since its inception EIT has saved New Jerseyans more than $2.1 billion.”
"The governor's signing of these bills that include money for the repair, restoration, and remediation of New Jersey stormwater systems is most welcome – especially the focus on Barnegat Bay," Cindy Zipf, Clean Ocean Action director, said. "These funds are a meaningful, near-term step that will help reduce litter, sewage, and nutrient pollution to our waterways as well as create much needed jobs."
The Barnegat Bay watershed is targeted this year for EIT funding for stormwater runoff mitigation projects to lessen the impacts of pollutants that flow from lawns and streets into the bay. The DEP has developed a project ranking system for some 2,500 stormwater basins and facilities in the region, and has earmarked basins most likely to have the greatest nutrient removal potential.
Included are a total of 25 Barnegat Bay projects proposed by Ocean County, Barnegat, Berkeley, Howell, Jackson, Lacey, Manchester, Toms River, and Stafford. Some of the highest ranked projects are eligible for 100 percent loan forgiveness, while other projects can receive a blended finance package, including low-cost loans.
Here are examples of funding for other water quality projects.
Middletown will use $2.7 million in low-interest loans to dredge Shadow Lake.
Another $14.8 million will go to the Linden Roselle Sewerage Authority and $4 million to the Middlesex Water Co.:
Cape May County will receive $12.4 million and Atlantic County $1.5 million.
Approximately $12.9 million will go to the Bergen County Utility Authority and another $1.2 million to Maywood.
Princeton Borough will receive $1.4 million, Princeton Township $1.8 million and Hightstown $618. 765. The Ewing-Lawrence Sewerage Authority will receive $1.5 million.
The Gloucester County Utilities Authority will receive $240,000, the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority $40 million, and Gloucester $1.4 million.
More than 170 applications from cities, towns, counties, authorities, utilities and private associations across the state already are being considered for much-needed money for next fiscal year for clean water and drinking water infrastructure projects.
Since 1985, 900 projects totaling $5.6 billion have been financed.
Successful applicants can get zero-and low-interest loans, at one-quarter or one-half the market rate, with no bond insurance required, no arbitrage concerns and no wait for funding or interest payments during construction, among other benefits.
The available money for all of the projects statewide comes from a program administered in part by the EIT, which is an independent State financing authority. It provides loans to county and local governments for construction of wastewater treatment facilities, sludge management systems, sewer overflow, stormwater projects and non-point source pollution management projects.