A $70 million bond proposal that would have been used to maintain water supplies in the state's Pinelands wildlife preserve has fallen victim to the same legislative opposition that killed two larger bond proposals last week.

State lawmakers allowed a deadline to pass without taking a vote necessary to put the bond proposal on the November ballot. The same fate met a $135 million housing plan and a $325 million environmental bond package.

The Assembly approved all three issues, but state senators expressed opposition to saddling voters with any new debt at a time when New Jersey is in a recession and state workers are being fired.

Gov. Florio has expressed support for all of the bond plans, arguing that continued infrastructure investment is vital, especially during recessionary periods.

The Pinelands is a million-acre preserve carpeting a vast section of southern New Jersey. The region features a 17-trillon gallon aquifer of fresh water resting beneath large expanses of rare and endangered animals and plants, including a forest of unique "pygmy" pine trees.

About 130 million gallons of water are pumped out of the aquifer every day for municipal use. To preserve the purity of the water supply, the resulting wastewaster is pumped either into the Atlantic Ocean or the Delaware River.

But Pinelands officials are concerned constantly draining the aquifer without attempting to replenish the lost water could allow ocean salt water to seep into the region.

The bonds would have been used for low-interest loans to local governments for wastewater treatment plants, to clean the water and return it to the aquifer.

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