The state will award $10 million in grants to local projects that improve water quality in the Barnegat Bay watershed, with a special focus on addressing runoff from streets and lawns.

"Reducing the impacts of stormwater runoff is one of the biggest challenges we face in improving the ecological health of Barnegat Bay," said Acting Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe.

Stormwater runoff carries pollutants into waterways, including nutrients from fertilizers and animal wastes,  automotive fluids and pesticides. Excessive nutrients can cause algae blooms that harm wildlife and ruin recreation.

Calling the bay "an important ecological and tourism resource for the state," the DEP invited nonprofit groups, government agencies, and state colleges and universities to apply. Strategies eligible include wetland restoration, living shorelines, stormwater infrastructure mapping, stormwater basin retrofits, nutrient and pathogen source tracking, submerged aquatic vegetation and shellfish restoration, and education projects.

The watershed covers all or parts of 37 municipalities in Ocean and Monmouth counties. The 42-mile long bay is known for for fishing, crabbing, bird-watching and exploring nature, according to the state.

The DEP's Water Quality Restoration grants are funded under the federal Clean Water Act, by Natural Resource Damage settlements the state has secured with polluters, and by the state's Corporate Business Tax, DEP said.

Applicants are encouraged to attend one of two public information sessions, each from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The first will be June 12 at the Jacques Cousteau Coastal Education Center, 130 Great Bay Boulevard, Tuckerton, and the second will be June 14 at Ocean County College, 1 College Drive, Toms River, Building #10, Conference Rooms A and B.

Applicants must email an electronic copy of their project proposal by August 31 to NPSgrants@dep.nj.gov in Microsoft Word, PDF, or compatible format. Other larger format documents, such as maps, tables and photos must be postmarked by the same deadline and sent to: New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Division of Water Monitoring and Standards Bureau of Environmental Analysis, Restoration and Standards, 401 East State Street, P.O. Box 420, Mail Code 401-041, Trenton, NJ 08625-0420 Attention: Dian Smith.

For the request for proposals and information about New Jersey's Water Quality Restoration Grants Program, visit: state.nj.govus/dep/wms/bears/npsrestgrants.html/.

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Contact: 609-272-7219

mpost@pressofac.com

Twitter @MichelleBPost

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In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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