Photo by eutrophication&hypoxia

The state is reviving a decade-old idea to help New Jersey address a $15 billion problem to better manage stormwater runoff, an issue widely recognized as fouling waterways and exacerbating flooding.

Borrowing a concept already in place in more than 40 states, the Senate Environment and Energy Committee approved a bill (S-1073) to allow towns and counties to set up stormwater utilities as a mechanism for controlling pollution from runoff.

The bill, or some version of it, has been kicked around by lawmakers for years, but has had a tough time winning approval — and when it did, former Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the measure.

Sen. Bob Smith, a Democrat from Middlesex who is chairman of the committee and sponsored of the bill, is cautiously optimistic this time. “We’re not doing any victory laps because it’s going to be a very hard bill to pass,’’ he said, adding, “this is the best version of a stormwater utilities bill I’ve seen in a long time.’’


Others argued the bill should mandate funding so-called green infrastructure projects, such as rain gardens and green roofs, as well as planting trees to deal with the problem. “This is a $15 billion problem,’’ said Ed Potosnak, executive director of the League of Conservation Voters. “Having a way to pay for it is critically important.’’

Chris Sturm, director of policy and water for New Jersey Future, agreed, noting the state’s stormwater infrastructure is crumbling. “It is time for New Jersey to join the 40 other states that have authorized stormwater utilities to generate the revenue needed to undertake these costly repairs,’’ she said.

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