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Pascrell Announces $547K EPA Grants to Combat Climate Change

Three awards to NJSEA will study sea level rise, help improve resiliency in Hackensack River Marshes and Saw Mill Creek Wildlife Management Area

U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) today announced that the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA) has received three grants totaling $547,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to study and combat sea level rise and climate change vulnerability, and manage long-term land use monitoring. State Senator Paul Sarlo and NJSEA President and CEO Vincent Prieto joined in the announcement. The grants were awarded last month to the NJSEA’s Meadowlands Research and Restoration Institute (MRRI).

Congressman Pascrell and State Senator Paul Sarlo were key supporters of a grant that will identify marshes in the Meadowlands that have the greatest chance of resiliency under future sea level rise. Marshes play an important role in protecting and stabilizing the Meadowlands environment. They filter pollutants, provide habitat for wildlife and absorb storm water, helping to mitigate flooding. Identifying marshes that can best contend with future sea level rise will help coastal managers, wetland practitioners and stakeholders when assessing wetland acquisitions, restorations and conservation.

The grants will allow the NJSEA to acquire crucial information on terrain elevation and land cover for the entire Meadowlands District. These precise measurements and data sets will meet many needs among NJSEA staff and District towns. The grant funding will also allow the NJSEA to update its knowledge of the Meadowlands hydrology and natural resources and give support to the agency’s Land Use and Stormwater departments. In addition, research will aid the NJSEAs efforts to balance development and protection of natural resources in the region.

“The Meadowlands is a unique urban estuary and its wetlands will play an absolutely crucial role in the region’s fight against sea level rise. Meadowlands marshes are also a significant contributing factor to the area’s environmental comeback, including the return of wildlife and the improvement of natural resources,” said Congressman Pascrell. “These EPA grants will do a great deal in helping the NJSEA’s exceptional scientists and researchers in best preparing the Meadowlands to meet the challenges of sea level rise.”

“The NJSEA is a creative leader in studying innovative methods to prepare for and mitigate the effects of sea level rise and climate change. Their research is especially important in a densely populated area,” Senator Sarlo said. “I commend the NJSEA’s hard work and leadership in addressing head-on the most significant environmental issues of the day.”

A second grant will be used to gain a deeper understanding and scientific knowledge of the Sawmill Creek’s potential to provide more habitat and sequester carbon under changing climate conditions and sea level rise. Sawmill Creek, located in Lyndhurst, North Arlington and Kearny, is a 727-acre Wildlife Management Area dominated by tidal marsh and a vital resource to both the Meadowlands and the surrounding New York/New Jersey Harbor Estuary.

Sawmill has undergone significant ecological change due to man-made causes, reducing formerly vegetated wetlands that sequestered carbon to open water and mudflat that now act as a carbon source. MRRI staff will conduct baseline studies to fill in existing scientific data gaps and develop a series of potential restoration strategies that focus on maximizing the site’s potential to provide additional habitat and sequester more carbon.

“Given the multi-faceted benefits that Sawmill provides, ensuring its restoration and preservation is paramount to the Meadowlands and surrounding area,” said Vincent Prieto, President and CEO of the NJSEA. “The current challenges are difficult but not insurmountable. The NJSEA’s work under the grant will enable our team to develop a series of possible restoration strategies for the Sawmill Creek Wildlife Management Area that focus on increasing habitat function and structure, and potential carbon storage, amid a changing climate.”

The third grant involves the management and publication of drone imagery for long-term monitoring of the Meadowlands region. Through this funding, the NJSEA will acquire crucial information on terrain elevation and land cover for the entire Meadowlands District. Using drone technology, research will continue to support the NJSEA’s storm water management and flood protection efforts by monitoring berms for breaches or soft edges, supporting tide gate inspections and ditch cleaning efforts, and mapping the Meadowlands region’s hydrology.

“The Meadowlands Research and Restoration Institute is an invaluable asset to the fragile yet improving environment in the Meadowlands, and by extension has increased the quality of life of Meadowlands District residents and visitors, and the wildlife that inhabit its marshes,” said Anthony Scardino, Chair of the NJSEA Science and Environment Committee and a member of the agency’s Board of Commissioners. “The tireless dedication and expertise of MRRI staff has placed the future of the Hackensack Meadowlands environment in good hands.”

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