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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 12, 2012

Contact: Lawrence Ragonese (609) 292-2994
Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795
Bob Considine (609) 984-1795

CHRISTIE ADMINISTRATION CONTINUES COMMITMENT TO FLOOD MITIGATION; DEP COMMISSIONER PROVIDES FLOOD MITIGATION UPDATE TO ELECTED OFFICIALS
 540 home buy-outs in pipeline to move residents out of harm’s way

(12/P44) TRENTON - Reaffirming that dealing with flooding is a top priority of the Christie Administration, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin met today with mayors and other elected officials to provide them with an update on the state’s efforts to mitigate the impacts of flooding in the Passaic River Basin.

“While there is no silver bullet that can put an end to flooding, the Christie Administration is committed to doing everything in its power to provide relief to people who have had to live for far too long with the cost, stress and anxiety of repeated flooding,” Commissioner Martin said. “We are continuing to move ahead on the Passaic River Basin Flood Advisory Commission’s 15-point plan to mitigate the impacts of flooding in this highly populated basin.”

During Thursday’s meeting at the Lincoln Park Community Center, Commissioner Martin explained that 540 residential properties, representing $121 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant commitments, have been approved for buy-outs in flood-prone municipalities.

“These acquisitions have been made possible through the unprecedented support from FEMA, which is working in a nationally unique funding partnership with the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management and DEP to leverage federal dollars to move residents out of harm’s way,” said State Police Superintendent Colonel Rick Fuentes, a member of the Passaic River Basin Flood Advisory Commission.

Of the 540 properties in the pipeline, 125 are acquisitions leveraged by $5.6 million in DEP Blue Acres funds – 58 properties in Wayne, 46 in Lincoln Park, 20 in Pompton Lakes, and one in Little Falls. Following the ratification of FEMA grant contracts last month, the DEP has begun appraisals and other necessary preliminary work on these properties and will make offers to owners in the coming weeks and months. The DEP expects to close on the majority of these acquisitions by the end of the year.

The DEP previously set aside $2 million to provide block grants to municipalities and counties to cover their required non-federal match to buy flood-prone properties. The DEP is now working to direct another $8 million for the non-federal match for 174 additional properties that received FEMA grant funding under the federal disaster declaration for Hurricane Irene. These properties are in Denville, Fairfield, Lincoln Park, Little Falls, Manville, Middlesex, New Milford, Parsippany-Troy Hills, Paterson, Pequannock, Pompton Lakes, and Westwood.

The New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, working in cooperation with FEMA and the DEP, is working toward securing matches from local funding sources for the remaining 241 properties. Matching funds will come from a variety of sources, including the Green Acres Program and county and local open space trust programs.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, the Commissioner outlined the results of an independent scientific evaluation requested by local officials following the floods of March 2011. AECOM, a leading consulting engineering firm, utilized the most sophisticated modeling technology available to analyze four recent flood events, including Hurricane Irene. AECOM determined the operation of the Pompton Lake Dam’s flood gates is not increasing downstream flooding in the central part of the basin.

The study also posited that the flood gates are serving the intended purpose of preventing upstream flooding in Oakland and that the lowering of Pompton Lake does not have an obvious affect on the storm’s flooding impacts.
 
In February 2011, the Passaic River Basin Flood Advisory Commission, formed by Governor Christie in response to a series of damaging floods, recommended 15 short-term and long-term measures to help mitigate the impacts of flooding in the basin, which covers significant portions of Bergen, Morris and Passaic counties. Although the commission analyzed the Passaic basin in particular, the measures it recommended will have benefits to communities statewide.

Key developments on the commission’s recommendations include:

  • The New Jersey Office of Emergency Management reports that FEMA has approved grants that will elevate 106 flood-prone properties. More elevation grant approvals are expected under three recent federal disaster declarations. Grant awards are expected this summer. 
  • Under a pilot DEP program providing $350,000 in grants, four municipalities – Wayne, Pequannock, Riverdale and Pompton Lakes – have completed or begun work to remove snags and debris from local waterways that can exacerbate flooding. In addition, the DEP is streamlining and expediting its stream cleaning permit process to make it easier for local governments to do these types of activities, which can prevent significant property damage.
  • The DEP and Army Corps of Engineers next month will execute a project agreement to begin the first phase of a $2.6 million study to evaluate future engineering projects such as levees and flood walls, as well as nonstructural measures that could provide long-term flood damage reduction.
  • The DEP has partnered with the U.S. Geological Survey to install new stream gauges and improve existing ones to help better predict flooding and improve emergency response capabilities as part of an enhanced Passaic River Flood Warning System. The DEP is working to update flood inundation maps that, coupled with the improved gauging network, will enhance real-time, web-based flooding information for basin residents.

The Passaic River Basin Flood Advisory Commission has acknowledged that none of its recommendations can change the reality that the Passaic River basin is a highly developed flood plain that will continue to flood. The DEP’s goal has been to effectively leverage Blue Acres funds with FEMA money to purchase structures most susceptible to chronic flooding and preserve those properties as open space.

“The most effective strategy is to move as many people out of harm’s way as we can,” Commissioner Martin said. “We fully expect the pace of offers and acquisitions to pick up in the coming months. All levels of government will continue to work together to help local governments and the residents of flood-prone areas.”

For a copy of AECOM’s Pompton Lake Dam report, visit: http://www.nj.gov/dep/damsafety/docs//pompton-lake-dam-floodgate-study-final.pdf

For more on the Passaic River Flood Advisory Commission and an update on all 15 of its recommendations, visit: http://www.nj.gov/dep/passaicriver/

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