For waterfowlers and lovers of waterfowling history, Barnegat Bay, New Jersey is hallowed ground. Take an early-morning boat ride across the bay and you can just imagine those 19th-century market gunners hunkered down in one of the famous Barnegat Bay sneakboxes with an old-school Chesapeake Bay retriever at his side. That was then and this is now, and modern-day Barnegat Bay is polluted. But a controversial new proposal to drastically limit the amount of residential fertilizer run-off into the bay hopes to change that.

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Lawns may turn more brittle and yellow, but lakes, bays and marshes could become a lot cleaner under a bill making its way through Trenton that would ban many lawn care products on the shelf today. Called the most comprehensive and prohibitive legislation of its kind in the nation by supporters and opponents alike, the bill calls for a sea change in the way New Jerseyans apply fertilizer to their lawns. The bill comes out of a package of legislation intended to restore Barnegat Bay, heavily polluted by fertilizer runoff, but its impact would be statewide.
The most contentious part of the bill limits the amount and type of nitrogen in fertilizer to a level that can’t be met by any of the products currently offered by the world’s largest lawn care retailer. “For that standard to be met, every product on the market would need to change,” said Chris Wible, director of environmental stewardship for Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, which is lobbying against certain provisions in the bill. The bill also bans phosphorus to maintain lawns, a move that has already been made by many lawn care companies. It would also ban anyone from applying fertilizer to turf:

* Between Nov. 15 and March 1 or at any time when the ground is frozen. * Within 10 feet of any body of water. * During or just before a heavy rainfall. In addition, landscapers and others who apply fertilizer professionally would have to be trained and certified through a new program at Rutgers. “The industry knows that this poisons the environment and they should do something about it,” said Assemblyman John McKeon, D-Essex, head of the Assembly environment committee and a sponsor of the bill._

Your thoughts? Is the trade-off worth it? What’s more important: lush green trophy lawns that produce green, polluted water or not-so-green lush lawns that produce unpolluted run-off?