Assembly approves funding to combat harmful algal blooms, lake conservation

Assembly approves funding to combat harmful algal blooms, lake conservation

Harold J. Wirths

TRENTON, N.J. – The Assembly passed a bill Thursday to appropriate $10 million for lake conservation and management efforts, including the mitigation of harmful algal blooms. Qualified entities like the Greenwood Lake Commission, the Lake Hopatcong Commission, the Deal Lake Commission and the Lake Topanemus Park Commission, may apply to the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection for grants to help pay for certain maintenance costs associated with lake recreation and conservation.

The bill (A5778/S3618), sponsored by Assemblyman Hal Wirths and co-sponsored by Assemblyman Brian Bergen, who has been the driving force behind moving the bill in the Assembly, will prioritize projects that involve lakes with public access.

“Businesses and communities surrounding our state lakes really need a successful summer this year,” Wirths (R-Sussex) said. “Between the harmful algal blooms that closed beaches in 2019 and the Covid restrictions that shut down all recreational activities on the lake last year, we really need a win. It’s more important now than ever to invest in programs that will preserve our freshwater lakes.”

Brian Bergen

Lake Hopatcong and Greenwood Lake, along with several other bodies of water in the area, have suffered from high levels of harmful algal blooms the past few summers. Harmful algal blooms occur when colonies of microscopic algae or bacteria grow at exponential rates and produce toxins harmful to humans and animals. When the blue-green algae concentrates rise above the state’s safety threshold, the DEP closes the lakes to recreational activities and swimming.

“Lakes like Hopatcong are an economic resource for an entire region,” said Bergen (R-Morris). “Summer is when we see the most revenue generating activity, so we need to preserve public access through proper lake maintenance. Preventing and managing harmful algal blooms is critical to ensuring a safe environment for swimmers and a prosperous season for small businesses.”