LoBiondo Applauds Committee Passage of BEACH Act
Today's Bill Includes Language Authored by Congressman
Continuing his efforts to ensure South Jersey receives its fair share, U.S. Representative Frank A. LoBiondo (NJ-02) today applauded the inclusion of language he offered to H.R. 2537, the "Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act," which will help to ensure adequate federal funding is available to protect New Jersey's waters and beach-goers. Derived from similar legislation he introduced earlier this year, LoBiondo's language was included during the full House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee mark-up today. LoBiondo is the only member of the New Jersey delegation to sit on the committee.
"New Jersey's 130 miles of coastline and beaches are critical to the $20 billion tourism industry that fuels our local and state economy. It is imperative that our state receives its fair share of federal funding to promote healthy beaches and protect those who visit them," said LoBiondo, a member of the House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee. "Funding for states like New Jersey, with tens of millions of visitors at local beaches each season and countless year-round residents, should not be solely dictated by the calendar. I am pleased the Committee has adopted my language to examine the current formula used by the EPA when distributing funding for water quality testing to the states."
Determined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the current formula distributes federal funding for water quality efforts to each state based primarily on the length of the state's "beach season," therefore awarding more federal dollars to southern, coastal states at the expense of northern states. Other factors such as the number of visitors to and geographical size of state beaches are considered to a lesser degree. LoBiondo's language would instruct the EPA to re-evaluate the current formula by putting greater weight on the number of visitors to state beaches year-round - ensuring states with more beach-goers have the necessary federal resources to protect the public and water quality - and report back to Congress on the agency's findings.
Since 2001, New Jersey has received over $1.4 million in BEACH Act funding, with an additional $279,870 granted this year. The EPA coastal and beach monitoring program is part of a cooperative initiative with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP) to protect the state's waters. With the assistance of EPA's "Coastal Crusader" helicopter, each agency collects water samples once a week to test for bacteria; and they split the responsibility for aerial monitoring of the waters for floatable debris and oil slicks.
"New Jersey has the highest quality of water along our beaches than any other state in the country. While other states test only on holiday weekends, New Jersey continuously tests the water quality each week to ensure the safest possible conditions for residents and visitors. I trust the EPA will devise a new formula that is more justified and equitable in its treatment of coastal states," concluded LoBiondo.
In January 2007, LoBiondo introduced legislation which would increase federal support available to coastal states. Introduced with Congressman Timothy Bishop (NY-01), LoBiondo's legislation would provide up to $30 million annually through fiscal year 2011 for water quality testing at the nation's 6,000 public beaches. In the previous Congress, LoBiondo also authored the BEACH Act which was approved by the House in December 2005, but never considered by the full Senate.