Barnegat Bay in Ocean County will get $20 million worth of protection as Gov. Chris Christie sends New Jersey grants to local and county governments.
That investment follows progress in preventing fertilizer and contaminants from getting into the state’s largest estuary and harming aquatic life, he said Wednesday.
“The northern part is getting better, but there’s more work to do,” Christie said at a news conference at the bay. “The other parts of the bay, we want to try to make sure that they don’t degrade any further. And our efforts have made sure that didn’t happen.
“This next stop is necessary to accelerate that improvement in the northern part of the bay.”
The grants will fund more projects to improve wetlands, upgrade stormwater infrastructure and conduct long-term water-quality monitoring of the bay and its tributaries.
Barnegat Bay is a jewel in the communities that border it, said Toms River Mayor Tom Kelaher, joining Christie at the news conference.
“If the Barnegat Bay is in trouble, we’re all in trouble because it’s such a vital part of our economy that we just cannot get by without it,” he said. “So many people have a livelihood based on it. So many people every year have a wonderful time sailing and fishing and so on.”
Barnegat Bay is a major contributor to the state’s $44 billion tourism industry, Christie said. And he says the long-term restoration of the bay has been one of the top priorities of his administration.
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said he hopes the next administration will continue the plan to reduce sources of contamination and ensure the ecological recovery of the bay.
“We’ve got two dozen scientists that are working with us on this over time. So those scientists are brought in for a lot of these projects,” Martin said Wednesday. “We’re going to — hopefully over the long haul — keep them in place, so we’re able to measure that.”