Contact: Henry Gajda
O: (609) 331-9922
C: (732) 267-2072
LEADING POLITICAL ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP TESTIFIES ABOUT IMPORTANCE OF STORMWATER UTILITIES IN IMPROVING NEW JERSEY WATER INFRASTRUCTURE
TRENTON – The following statement is from Henry Gajda, Policy Director, New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, regarding his testimony today at the New Jersey Assembly Special Committee on Infrastructure and Natural Resources about stormwater control and reducing nonpoint source pollution in the state’s waterways.
“We are in the midst of a major public policy, infrastructure, and environmental crisis that will be exacerbated by climate change,” said Henry Gajda, Policy Director, New Jersey LCV. “With the Federal Government lacking, the onus is on states and local governments to raise the revenue to improve these systems, and there is no dedicated funding source to address this massive need. How can the state address these problems? We need investment,” added Gajda.
Gajda recommended stormwater utilities as a potential solution to spur investment in New Jersey’s stormwater infrastructure, and recommended the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) provide funding opportunities for cities and towns to overcome the initial obstacles of funding technical studies that inform the establishment of a utility.
The following are some excerpts from his testimony:
“Stormwater utilities are widely considered the most effective and equitable method to fund stormwater management infrastructure because it follows the polluters pay principle – if you pollute, you pay, and these fees will apply to those who don’t currently pay taxes. In NJ, the revenue raised from stormwater utilities is dedicated to stormwater management projects and shared services. Nationally, the average residential fee is just over $4.50 a month; the larger the region a utility covers, generally the lower the fee as a market of scale is reached. This fee is a down payment that supports good, local jobs, smart economic development, and improvements in the essential infrastructures we need to improve the quality of life of New Jersey residents.”
“The revenue raised must go to stormwater management projects, including a priority on green infrastructure. Green infrastructure is important because it doesn’t use big pipes or facilities, but rather it mimics the natural flow and hydrology of the land, to stop and control the water on sight, and let it percolate into the soil. There are a plethora of ancillary benefits, too; every dollar invested in green infrastructure can save $7 to $27 dollars in the future; it has been associated with better health outcomes, reductions in crime, and improved property values. Not to mention, the offset costs from moving expenditures off of municipal budgets is not only more efficient, in a time like COVID, it could help provide some additional flexibility that municipalities traditionally haven’t had.”
“Some ways we can spur interest and remove obstacles for municipalities is to include either legislatively or administratively a small pot of money within DEP that can be used by towns to conduct feasibility studies and the technical analyses needed to inform the establishment of a utility. The state should be out front in support of establishing utilities. It would help reduce costs for municipalities and in some cases reduce tax burdens, but more likely free up budget space to invest in other important priorities that our local governments face.”
For more information about stormwater utilities visit the Flood Defense Coalition Website: flooddefensenj.org