Home > Uncategorized > Flawed $10 Million Lake Funding Bill Now On Gov. Murphy’s Desk Diverts Money From Highlands And Pinelands

Flawed $10 Million Lake Funding Bill Now On Gov. Murphy’s Desk Diverts Money From Highlands And Pinelands

Bill Ignores Regional Planning and DEP Regulatory Programs To Reduce Pollution

Perfect Example Of Corrupt Green Mafia Practices

Primary Beneficiary Is Private Consulting Firm That Works With Green Mafia 

On the last day of the legislative session before the summer break, the legislature quietly unanimously approved a one time $10 million supplemental appropriation to DEP (S3618) to address NJ’s persistent and proliferating episodes of “harmful algae blooms” and declining water quality. For context, see:

The bill is now on Gov. Murphy’s desk.

The bill provides a one time $10 million appropriation to DEP for: (OLS bill statement)

The bill directs the DEP to establish a program to use these funds for grants to assist qualified entities to pay certain costs associated with the management and maintenance of lakes for recreation and conservation purposes.

The bill requires the DEP to develop criteria for the evaluation and ranking of applications to provide priority to projects submitted by qualified entities responsible for a lake with public access; and projects to improve water quality and increase recreational access and use of lakes, including projects to control nutrient levels in lakes in order to prevent future harmful algal blooms. The bill provides that a grant issued pursuant to the bill may be used for stormwater and nonpoint source pollution management activities, if the DEP determines that those activities would directly enhance, improve, or protect the use of a lake for recreation and conservation purposes.

The bill is seriously flawed, for what it does and does not do:

1. The bill does not direct DEP to more aggressively enforce current DEP water quality standards, water quality planning planning, and regulatory permit programs designed to reduce nutrient pollution.

2. The bill does not authorize any new regulatory controls on the nutrient pollution that causes lake eutrophication and harmful algae blooms.

3. The bill is limited to grant incentives (all carrot, no stick). Equally bad, the one time nature of the funding makes it impossible for DEP to plan for or sustain the funding required for long term lake management programs to prevent, reduce, and respond to harmful algae blooms.

4. The bill ignores the regional planning, land use, and water quality powers of the Highlands Council, The Pinelands Commission and the Delaware River Basin Commission.

5. The bill also would divert funding from the NJ Highlands and Pinelands. The bill:

delete the provision that would have required the DEP to provide priority to projects located in the Highlands Region and pinelands area, and instead require the DEP to provide priority to projects submitted by qualified entities that are responsible for a lake with public access;

And it is a horrible legislative precedent to carve out the Highlands and the Pinelands and diminish the dedicated funding and priority for these regions.

One would think that given these flaws, particularly the diversion of funding from the Highlands and Pinelands, that the bill would be opposed by environmental groups, particularly the Highlands Coalition (HiCo) and the Pinelands Preservation Alliance (PPA).

The NJ Sierra Club opposed the bill.

But one would be wrong about the HiCo and PPA.

I was able to confirm that PPA took no position on the bill, they deferred to the HiCo. Here was their lame excuse:

We deferred to the Highlands Coalition on this bill, as it seems that algal blooms are really an issue there and not in the Pinelands.

PPA not only deferred to HiCO, but they were misinformed about the bill itself. The bill was not limited to harmful algae blooms. The bill applied broadly to lake management, water quality and stormwater management. The Pinelands has lake water quality issues that are within the scope of the bill and the bill would divert funding from them. Incredible that PPA was not aware of this.

I reached out to the HiCo but have not heard back. I strongly suspect that they supported the bill, and did so for corrupt reasons.

The bill would expand the scope of DEP’s Lakes Management Programs to fund “stormwater management” and “non point pollution” projects. Here’s what an un-named fellow environmental advocate immediately recognized that would do:

OMG. this is like a gift to aquatic management companies and folks like Princeton Hydro!!


And it just so happens that the Highlands Coalition has been working closely with Princeton Hydro in their ill advised joint “stormwater utility” promotional campaign. see:

Here’s HiCO’s Elliott Ruga Op-Ed promoting stormwater utilities as the solution to harmful algae blooms (and he doesn’t even correctly describe them as “harmful”, which downplays the problem):

The primary culprit that is causing the algae blooms in Lake Hopatcong and other recreational lakes and reservoirs in northern New Jersey is untreated stormwater, which carries a slew of toxins from hard surfaces, such as roads and parking lots, and washes contaminants directly into the lake. ..

The good news is that a bill that recently passed in Trenton allows municipalities, counties or a combination of municipalities, to form a stormwater utility, which can construct any number of “green infrastructure” projects that serve to intercept stormwater runoff, and filter out the contamination, before it enters the lake.

Here is Princeton Hydro, echoing that spin – and note how he brings in another player in NJ’s Green Mafia:

With increases in each of these occurring now, the imposition of green infrastructure and a stormwater utility fee are viable solutions to reducing their impacts. Plus, with the passing of the S-1073/A2694 bill in early 2019, the introduction of a stormwater utility became legal in New Jersey, making it the 41st state to do so.

On June 19, 2019, The Watershed Institute in Pennington, NJ held the “New Jersey Green Infrastructure & Stormwater Utilities Symposium” to address the environmental problems New Jersey faces and present solutions, including the stormwater utility.

So, the Highlands Coalition took the lead on this $10 million appropriation bill and they supported it while it diverted funds from the Highlands and eliminated a legislative funding priority for the Highlands!

The Pinelands Preservation Alliance, The Highlands Coalition, and the Watershed Institute are all funded by the $100 million Wm. Penn Foundation Delaware Watershed initiative.

The Penn Foundation money very likely included the stormwater utility campaign. The Wm. Penn Foundation does not support funding for enforcement of traditional Clean Water Act based government planning and regulatory programs. Instead, they support all kinds of voluntary initiatives and market incentives (like stormwater taxes in the stormwater utility fee and law).

So, we have a case where so called environmental groups are working with a private consulting firm to the detriment of their missions, while they undermine far more effective regional planning and DEP water quality regulatory programs.

But those more effective DEP water quality programs don’t provide any funding to the Green Mafia and their consultant friends.

The private consulting firm and the private Foundation are directing those groups, to the detriment of their mission and protection of water quality and the broader public interest, see:

And that is exactly how the Green Mafia rolls – money drives them to do anything.

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