Congressman: Funding for NJ beach replenishments at risk
A South Jersey congressman says New Jersey will have to fight harder to get federal dollars for beach replenishment projects because the expense was not included in President Barack Obama's proposed budget.
"What that means is (that) we in Congress are going to have to work off a zero number, instead of working off a what would even be a minimal number, and that makes it much, much, much more difficult," U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J. 2nd District, said last week.
Beach replenishment is critical to New Jersey's $43 billion tourism industry, and most of that is due to people visiting the beaches, according to LoBiondo.
"We do know that if the beaches are not what they should be, then people will not visit them," LoBiondo said. "This is not about people getting a sun tan, this is about jobs and the economy."
LoBiondo said lawmakers have been successful in securing beach replenishment money over the years because they've been able to articulate the importance of these projects and partner with other coastal states and districts.
"But, this year, I think will probably be our biggest challenge ever," he said.
LoBiondo said the president's previous budgets contained funding for the Army Corps of Engineers for beach replenishment projects nationwide, not exclusively for New Jersey or individual states.
Adding to the challenge LoBiondo said is that the Sandy Emergency Appropriation running out.
"We were able to have that included as 100 percent federal cost share. The normal cost share is 65 percent federal, 35 percent state. Now that the Sandy Emergency Supplemental is basically over, [...] we will go back to the traditional formula, which will be more expensive for the state and local communities."
The appropriations process is currently underway, according to LoBiondo, with communities assessing needs and submitting project requests to the Army Corps and the state Department of Environmental Protection.
LoBiondo said the state's Democratic U.S. senators, Cory Booker and Robert Menendez, have been strong partners in the process and he attributed that relationship with having been able to successfully obtain funding in the past.
The government's fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, and LoBiondo said they're hoping to have a firmer idea on how much money is needed in the fall.