The state Department of Environmental protection is handing out $10 million in grants for water quality improvement projects in the Barnegat Bay watershed — a natural resource that drives billions in tourism and recreation dollars through the Garden State.

Several nonprofit organizations, local governments and state colleges and universities will use the money to help reduce the impact of stormwater runoff, which carries pollutants such as animal waste, fertilizers and chemicals into waterways.

“These contain bacteria that — when they get into a watershed, into creeks and rivers and then into a bay — they feed algae growth, and that can impair water quality,” said Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the DEP.

Hajna said because Barnegat Bay is long, relatively shallow and narrow, it’s susceptible to stormwater pollution.

“It’s a beautiful area, but it’s also — especially the northern part of the bay — highly developed, and that’s where a lot of the stormwater inputs are occurring," he said.

A study by the nonprofit Barnegat Bay Partnership found the water, natural resources and ecosystems in the watershed contribute between $2 billion and $4 billion a year in economic value to the state.

The DEP’s water quality restoration grants are made possible through funding from the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Clear Water Act program, as well as damage settlements secured from polluters and the state’s Corporate Business Tax.

The DEP list of Grant awards includes:

  • Brick Township MUA, $950,000 for the design and installation of green infrastructure and nutrient reduction practices in the Metedeconk River watershed;
  • The South Jersey Resource Conservation and Development Council, $325,000 for a stormwater basin retrofitting project in Lakewood Township;
  • Rutgers University, $775,000 to develop a watershed restoration plan for southern
  • Barnegat Bay, including Little Egg Harbor Tributaries;
  • Barnegat Bay Partnership, $220,000 for a watershed restoration and protection plan for Cedar Creek;
  • Barnegat Bay Partnership, $200,000 for a watershed restoration and protection plan for the Oyster Creek watershed;
  • Barnegat Bay Partnership, $700,000 for a watershed restoration and protection plan for the Toms River watershed;
  • ReClam the Bay, $30,000 for Barnegat Bay restoration and enhancement;
  • The borough of South Toms River, $155,000 for the stabilization of the Crabbe Point Pier shoreline;
  • The American Littoral Society, $1 million for a living shoreline and oyster reef project to improve water quality along Forked River Beach;
  • Ocean County Planning Department, $3 million for a living shoreline restoration project at Cattus Island County Park;
  • Tuckerton Borough, $350,000 for a living shorelines project at Tuckerton Beach;
  • Barnegat Bay Partnership, $100,000 for a “Bay Friendly” stewardship program;
  • Save Barnegat Bay, $100,000 for nonpoint source education for local government and municipal stormwater outreach;
  • Berkeley Township Underwater Search and Rescue Unit, $300,000 for sea nettle outreach and assistance;
  • Lacey Township, $70,000 for stormwater mapping expansion;
  • Point Pleasant Beach Borough, $30,000 for storm sewer mapping;
  • Clean Ocean Action, $600,000 to identify and eliminate pathogens from sanitary sewage sources in the Toms River watershed;
  • Montclair State University, $300,000 for restoration and enhancement of submerged aquatic vegetation in the bay;
  • Stockton University, $225,000 for a project modeling restoration of submerged aquatic vegetation;
  • Stockton University, $300,000 for creation of oyster reefs in the bay;
  • Ocean County Sheriff's Department, $270,000 for Barnegat Bay education and enforcement.

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