New Jersey Lawmakers Aim to Reauthorize BEACH Act

Jul 26, 2017

Although the Trump administration has proposed zeroing out all BEACH Act grant funding, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.-6th) are leading an effort to secure these monies in fiscal year 2018. The lawmakers, who were successful in beating back similar defunding plans under Obama, recently introduced The BEACH Act 2017, which would reauthorize a $30 million-a-year federal grant program through 2021. The measure provides funding for local efforts to monitor beach water quality and notify the public of health hazards.

Updates to the law, meanwhile, include implementing the use of rapid testing methods, and requiring states to track down sources of pollution.

As Menendez noted at a press conference in Sea Bright last Friday, “The BEACH Act allows families to come to the beach with the peace of mind of knowing that the water is safe for them and their children to swim and play. But it’s also about accepting our responsibilities as stewards of our incredible coastal environment, what it means to all of us, and preserving our pristine, vibrant Jersey Shore for generations to come.”

The BEACH Act was first enacted in 2000 under a law originally authored by Pallone and the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg. Menendez has been the chief BEACH Act sponsor in the U.S. Senate since the passing of Lautenberg in 2013.

“Clean, safe and healthy beaches are vital to our state’s economy and give beachgoers the peace of mind they need to enjoy this incredible resource,” Pallone remarked. “My bill with Sen. Lautenberg was an important step to keep beaches clean and safe, and now I am proud to introduce this bill with Sen. Menendez to reauthorize and strengthen the original legislation.”

Under the BEACH Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is required to work with states to ensure they use the latest science to sample and test beach waters. The measure also helps states set up and operate comprehensive monitoring and notification programs in order to provide up-to-date information on the condition of all public beaches.

The act has provided New Jersey with more than $4 million in grants to operate approximately 180 ocean and 35 bay monitoring stations along the shore, perform weekly recreational beach water quality monitoring and notify the public when tests come back positive for contamination to protect swimmers.

“It is shocking that defending the funding of this public safety law has become an annual battle,” said Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action. “Who doesn’t support safe beaches for our kids? That said, this law was state-of-the-art 20 years ago. Today’s technology allows for faster and more protective testing so we can know on day one that our beaches are safe for swimming, not the day after. We are long overdue for an upgrade.”

The reauthorization legislation mandates the use of rapid testing methods by requiring the EPA to approve methods that detect water contamination in four hours or less so that beaches can be closed shortly thereafter. —J.K.-H.

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