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Beach protection funding key to state's economy, congressmen argue

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The importance of tourism to the state’s economy is a key reason why the federal government must maintain funding for protecting beaches, U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-Cliffside Park) and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-Long Branch) said today.

“People have to be satisfied that the beaches are clean and the water is safe for them to swim,” said Pallone, a sponsor of a federal law enacted in 2000 that sets national water quality standards and provides states with funding to test water quality and notify the public when conditions are unsafe. 

Pallone said he and Lautenberg are seeking to maintain $10 million in federal appropriations for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. He said it is likely the funding will be including in a “continuing resolution,” used to fund the government.

However, the legislators are seeking more funding, as well as a mandate that officials use new water tests that assess the results within six hours. They are seeking $30 million for additional grants to communities to locate and address sources of water pollution.

He pointed to state statistics that tourism-related activity generated $38 billion for the state’s economy in 2011, a 7 percent increase, and that 312,000 tourism-related jobs account for 10 percent of all jobs in the state.

Lautenberg said in a statement that the beaches shouldn’t be taken for granted.

“New Jersey’s shoreline is a major driver of our economy, an environmental treasure and a proud recreational resource for people in our state,” he said.

Lautenberg and Pallone spoke at an event in Asbury Park in support of the beach funding. Asbury Park Mayor Ed Johnson also supported the funding.

“Extending these programs is not just an environmental issue, it’s also an economic issue, because our beaches support thousands of New Jersey jobs,” Johnson said in a statement.

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