WOODBRIDGE — The Woodbridge Waterfront Park, when redeveloped, will include approximately 30 acres of restored wetlands, walking trails, a boardwalk overlooking the wetlands and a viewing platform at the Raritan River, bird blinds for observing wildlife, educational signs, gathering spaces with seating and bus parking.
The site at 1070 Riverside Drive in the Keasbey section of the township is a brownfield site being redeveloped, which has benefited from federal funds to make the redevelopment project happen.
That is why Congressman Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey) visited the township on Nov. 28, calling on Congress to pass the bipartisan Brownfields Enhancement, Economic Redevelopment, and Reauthorization Act of 2017.
On Nov. 30, the bill passed through the House of Representatives.
“The Brownfields program has been an incredibly important tool for protecting public health and spurring economic growth in New Jersey and throughout the country,” Pallone said on the House Floor in Washington D.C. “The Brownfields program is proof that having a strong economy and protecting the environment is not an either-or issue. We can have both.”
The reauthorization legislation will extend the federal Brownfields fund through 2022 and make important reforms to the program. The bill improves the flexibility of the program, authorizing multi-purpose grants, raising the limits for grants per site, and removing some funding caps in current law.
It also allows the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] to reserve as much as $1.5 million in brownfields funding each year to assist small communities, tribes, and rural or disadvantaged areas. Grants could be used for training, research, and technical assistance.
Additionally, the bill would require the EPA to consider the potential for renewable energy production when ranking applications for brownfield grants, to incentivize green energy projects.
The brownfields program assists communities with the cleanup of former industrial properties where redevelopment is complicated by the presence of environmental contamination. When the program was first authorized, there were an estimated 450,000 brownfields properties in the United States. According to the EPA, more than 59,000 brownfields sites have already been revitalized.
Since 2002, New Jersey has received more than $34 million in Brownfields grants. The vast majority of the funds, approximately $29 million, were awarded for assessment and cleanup efforts. Last year, Asbury Park received $400,000 in Brownfields grants.
In 2009, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection [NJDEP] designated the Woodbridge Waterfront as a Brownfields Development Area.
The Keasbey Woodbridge Redevelopment Zone includes the FedEx Ground Transportation Terminal and Warehouse, Wakefern Food Corporation, Graydell, and a waterfront park that is currently under construction.
Since 2010, EPA Region 2 has granted nearly $4 million to NJDEP to help revitalize brownfields in the state, including the Woodbridge waterfront.