LoBiondo Applauds Passage of BEACH Act
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) applauded the passage of H.R. 2537, the "Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act," which includes provisions that he authored to help ensure adequate federal funding is available to protect New Jersey's waters and beach-goers. LoBiondo was a coauthor of the original "BEACH Act" in 2000. The full House approved the bill last evening by voice vote.
"New Jersey's 127 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.
H.R. 2537 authorizes $40 million annually through fiscal year 2013 in grants to enhance states' programs for public notification of contaminated or potentially contaminated beaches; encourages the development of rapid testing methodologies to detect beach water contamination; and improves the requirements for states in source tracking of pathogens. Since 2001, New Jersey has received over $1.4 million in "BEACH Act" funding.
Also included in the "BEACH Act" is language authored by LoBiondo that would re-evaluate the current formula used for allocation of federal resources for state water quality efforts. Determined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the current formula distributes federal funding 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.
The EPA's 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," LoBiondo concluded. "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 final bill included my language to examine the current formula used by the EPA when distributing funding for water quality testing to the states."