04/07/05 - Posted from the Daily Record newsroom
State bolsters effort to make Budd Lake cleaner

DEP awards $393,944 so Mt Olive can study the area's watershed

By Michael Daigle, Daily Record


Mount Olive's Budd Lake is the bottom of a big bowl that catches everything that flows downhill from Naughright Road to the Budd Lake Diner on Route 46, as well as surrounding hills.

Salt and sand from nearby roads, lawn fertilizer and motor oil all find their way into the lake, Mount Olive grant writer Kathy Murphy said on Wednesday.

That is why she was pleased to learn that the state Department of Environmental Protection awarded $393,944 to help the township study the lake's watershed with an eye toward developing a storm water management plan.

More important, Murphy said, is that Mount Olive's efforts to clean up the water will have a regional impact.

Budd Lake is the headwater of the south branch of the Raritan River, which flows into Round Valley Reservoir in Hunterdon County, a public water source.

The grant to Mount Olive was one of six given to Morris and Sussex county governments and watershed groups on Wednesday -- part of a $3.6 million program that funded 11 projects statewide.

"This progressive funding program will reduce storm water runoff, which impairs the quality of New Jersey's waters," said acting Gov. Richard J. Codey.

The grants come from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which is authorized under the 1987 Clean Water Act to fund projects that reduce nonpoint source pollution, or storm water pollution. That includes contamination of ground water, waterways and oceans from runoff carrying fertilizers, pet wastes, motor oil and litter, the DEP said.

"Recent flooding costs in New Jersey are estimated to be about $30 million," said DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell.

"By maintaining and restoring natural buffers and managing runoff from developed sites, we can protect stream corridors and reduce the potential for flooding of the state's rivers."

The DEP received applications for 35 projects totaling more than $6 million.

Projects were selected based on the ability to eliminate pollutants. Projects received special consideration if they curbed pollution going to Category One water bodies or impaired waterways, the DEP said.

New Jersey's largest inland lake, Lake Hopatcong, is implementing a project that will install subsurface sand filters. They use sand and vegetative filter strips, which are composed of a variety of plants, to remove phosphorus from storm water runoff entering the lake.

Mount Arlington Mayor Arthur Ondish, who also is executive director of the Lake Hopatcong Commission -- which oversees the lake -- said he is grateful that the state recognized the need to clean up Lake Hopatcong.

He said $844,500 -- the largest grant announced on Wednesday -- will go a long way toward improving the water quality in Lake Hopatcong, which each year sprouts a large crop of weeds that feed on phosphorus fertilizer runoff and require constant harvesting.

The project to install the filters also will support efforts made by towns around the lake to build sewer systems, which help cut down on lake pollution, and efforts like that in Mount Arlington that promote the use of non-polluting fertilizers, Ondish said.

"We are doing everything locally we can to keep the lake pristine, our most wonderful natural treasure," he said.

Ondish agreed that the DEP approved "targeted grants" that provide regional solutions.

For example, Lake Hopatcong flows into Lake Musconetcong, which, as a smaller lake, has perhaps a more severe weed problem.

"Lake Musconetcong is a lake that needs help," Ondish said.

June Herseck, executive director of the Rockaway River Watershed Cabinet, said the $201,000 DEP grant is aimed at reducing fecal coliform levels and sediment in the Rockaway River. The Rockaway flows in the Jersey City Reservoir in Parsippany, also a public water source.

Dover's Hurd Park is crossed by two brooks -- including Jackson Brook, which drains Hedden Park -- that enter the Rockaway River west of Dover's downtown. Herseck said a river gauge near that confluence registered high levels of fecal coliform pollution.

Herseck said the project will study how to reduce the impact of the local Canada goose population and provide plantings and other buffers that would stabilize stream banks and reduce the sediment entering the river.

The area is under study by four towns, Morris County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of a Jackson Brook Watershed plan to reduce flooding.

Three Sussex County projects that received funding all are part of the same extended Wallkill River watershed, said Nathaniel Sajdak, coordinator of the Wallkill River Management Group. Wallkill received two grants totaling more than $290,000 for restoration and storm water management in the Papakating Creek watershed and the Clove Acres Lake watershed.

Another Sussex County grant went to Vernon for a $385,674 program in the Black Creek watershed.

"The grant provides us funding to two or three years," Sajdak said.

The Wallkill River begins at Mohawk Lake and runs north into New York State and eventually into the Hudson River, Sajdak said. His group plans to use the funds to map the flow of pollution in the watershed.

Vernon health director Gene Osias said the township has similar plans for its $385,674 grant, which will be used to develop a project to mitigate highway runoff and other pollution and to create buffers for the Black Creek. The storm water management plan fits into the township's development plan under a state-approved town center concept, he said.

"This is an example of how development can be done while protecting the environment," Osias said.



Michael Daigle can be reached at mdaigle@gannett.com or (973) 267-7947.