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Tax Credits Offered to Remove Lawns

Stone or crushed shell for residential landscaping is viewed by New Jersey officials as a sound way to reduce pollution from fertilizers and lawn care chemicals that is adversely affecting that state's Barnegat Bay. The state is proposing a $250 tax credit for homeowners who replace their lawns with stone or crushed shell.

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In New Jersey, the first legislation to give individual homeowners an incentive to help clean up Barnegat Bay proposes an annual $250 state income tax credit for people who replace grass lawns with stone or crushed shell in bayside neighborhoods.

Getting people to rip out their lawns within 1,000 feet of the bay shore or the bay's tributaries will reduce pollution from fertilizers and lawn care chemicals, says Assemblyman James W. Holzapfel, R-Ocean, who introduced bill A-3750.

''The harmful effects of lawn fertilizers are devastating the Barnegat Bay, and we must explore all the ways that residents can reduce the pollution, while receiving tax incentives to make a change to their property,'' Holzapfel said in announcing the legislation.

The recurring $250 tax credit on gross income could also be claimed by people who already use stone or shell mulch as landscaping, Holzapfel said.

A new state law restricting fertilizer use is a key component of the state's plan for restoring Barnegat Bay. Scientists say pollution from excess nutrients washing in from the bay's inland watershed is driving the bay's ecological decline. Most of that pollution is nitrogen compounds, estimated at between 850,000 pounds to 1.4 million pounds per year.

The nitrogen comes from a lot of sources, including air pollution fallout, but state lawmakers and the Department of Environmental Protection concluded one of the fastest ways to reduce a significant amount would be to control fertilizer misuse.

Stone landscaping has long been used in beach and bay communities, especially by seasonal residents who want a low-maintenance yard - and gravel is a plentiful local resource from pits in the Pine Barrens. But local environmental and garden organizations say stone yards can raise their own issues if owners rely too much on herbicides to keep the stones weed-free.

Crushed shell is a traditional paving material for driveways and still available from some Ocean County landscape suppliers, who obtain it from seafood processing plants in Cape May and Cumberland counties. In recent years there were spot shortages when the state and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers bought up lots of shell to rebuild oyster beds in Delaware Bay. But that program has been scaled back as sponsors had trouble renewing the federal funding.

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June 26, 2019, 12:06 pm PDT

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