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No-cost and low-cost loans enhance commitment to Barnegat Bay and statewide water quality
No-cost and low-cost loans enhance commitment to Barnegat Bay and statewide water qualityNew Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation that provides $650 million in no-cost and low-cost loans for projects to enhance water quality across New Jersey. The financing, to be administered as a revolving loan program through the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure (EIT) Financing Program, makes available $400 million for clean water project loans and $250 million for drinking water project loans. The federal government will finance at least half of the cost.
“There can be no compromise when it comes to the integrity of the state’s water infrastructure systems and the impact they have on our environmental treasures, like Barnegat Bay,” Christie said. “The bills I am signing today will fund critical projects that protect our ground and surface water resources, ensure the safety of drinking water supplies, and enable responsible and sustainable economic development vital to New Jersey’s ecological future.”
Christie signed A-4055, A-4056 and A-4057 in Barnegat Township, part of the Barnegat Bay watershed that is the focus of the governor’s 10-Point Comprehensive Barnegat Bay Restoration Plan. Included in the legislation is the authorization of approximately $16 million in grant-like funding for projects that will help protect, maintain and improve the water quality of Barnegat Bay, with $1 million available to county and local governments to purchase storm water maintenance equipment to help eliminate pollutants that could end up in the bay.
“Controlling pollution and providing safe, abundant drinking water requires significant capital investment," said Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bob Martin. "Environmental infrastructure is costly to build and maintain, and EIT's financing program helps keep costs to the public as low as possible; since its inception EIT has saved New Jerseyans more than $2.1 billion.”
"The governor's signing of these bills that include money for the repair, restoration and remediation of New Jersey storm water systems is most welcome--especially the focus on Barnegat Bay," said Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action. "These funds are a meaningful, near-term step that will help reduce litter, sewage and nutrient pollution to our waterways as well as create much needed jobs.”
Included are a total of 25 Barnegat Bay projects proposed by Ocean County, Barnegat Township, Berkeley Township, Howell, Jackson, Lacey Township, Manchester Township, Toms River and Stafford Township. Some of the highest ranked projects are eligible for 100% loan forgiveness, while other projects can receive a blended finance package, including low-cost loans.
More than 170 applications from cities, towns, counties, authorities, utilities and private associations across the state already are being considered for much-needed money for next fiscal year for clean water and drinking water infrastructure projects, in a program that dates back to 1985 and already has financed more than 900 projects totaling $5.6 billion. Successful applicants can get zero-and low-interest loans, at one-quarter or one-half the market rate, with no bond insurance required, no arbitrage concerns and no wait for funding or interest payments during construction, among other benefits.
The available money for all of the projects statewide comes from a program administered in part by the EIT, which is an independent state financing authority. It provides loans to county and local governments for construction of wastewater treatment facilities, sludge management systems, sewer overflow, storm water projects and non-point source pollution management projects. It also offers loans to publicly and privately owned drinking water systems for the construction or upgrade of drinking water facilities, transmission and distribution systems, storage facilities, and source development.
Funds are made available under the federal Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts and various state bond acts. The program provides 0% interest rate loans to local government units from the State Department of Environmental Protection for up to 75% of the allowable project costs, and a market rate loan from the trust for the remaining allowable costs.