FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 19, 2021
Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795
Caryn Shinske (609) 292-2994
(21/P025) TRENTON – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) today released draft study results and a tentative plan for coastal storm resilience measures intended to protect the New Jersey shore from extreme weather and rising sea levels. The USACE is soliciting public comment on the New Jersey Back Bays Coastal Storm Risk Management Study, which includes a tentatively selected plan for reducing the risk of storm and flood damage through storm surge barriers, cross-bay barriers and building elevations in the region that spans 950 square miles from Neptune to Cape May.
The New Jersey Back Bays are a set of interconnected water bodies located behind the state’s barrier islands throughout Monmouth, Ocean, Burlington, Atlantic and Cape May Counties. The Back Bays include inlets and associated water areas of the Shark River, Manasquan River, Barnegat Bay, Great Bay, Reeds Bay, Absecon Bay, Great Egg Harbor Bay, Ludlam Bay, and the Sounds between Sea Isle City and Cape May Point. The study of measures to better protect this area of New Jersey from storm damage has been ongoing since 2016 and public comment on the “New Jersey Back Bays Draft Integrated Feasibility Report and Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement,” is now being sought by USACE and NJDEP.
While this study does not constitute a final or recommended plan of action from the USACE or NJDEP, it provides critical storm risk information and a suite of options that will enable communities to evaluate and consider their preparedness. Following public comment on this feasibility study, the USACE will consider potential revisions to the tentatively selected plan in coordination with NJDEP. Whether and to what extent specific elements of the tentatively selected plan are implemented would be subject to many variables, including Congressional authorization, and the availability of federal, state, and local funding.
“To better protect New Jersey’s residents, communities, and economy, we must plan and prepare today for the climate change risks of tomorrow,” said New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette. “The Back Bays study integrates years of research and presents options for protecting areas of the Jersey shore from severe storms and flooding—risks that threaten New Jersey today and that will worsen as our planet warms. As we continue to approach climate risks with the seriousness they demand, the Murphy Administration is grateful for the partnership of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and committed to engaging all New Jersey communities. We must seek and hear all voices as the Back Bay Study and other climate resilience plans take shape.”
“The potential solutions to back bay flooding are complex, but there is a clear need to consider and evaluate all options and that’s what the New Jersey Back Bays Study aims to do,” said USACE Philadelphia District Commander Lt. Col. Ramon Brigantti. “I want to thank NJDEP for their support and partnership as well as the many stakeholders we’ve collaborated with throughout the study process. We look forward to continuing that dialog in the coming months.”
Spurred by the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, the Army Corps, in partnership with the NJDEP, has been conducting the feasibility study within the New Jersey Back Bay area, defined as the network of interconnected tidal water bodies located landward of the coastline in Monmouth, Ocean, Atlantic, Burlington, and Cape May counties. The study area includes approximately 950 square miles and nearly 3,400 miles of coastal waterway shorelines.
The objective is the investigation of coastal resilience solutions to reduce damages from coastal storm-related flooding that affects populations, critical infrastructure, property, and ecosystems. Engineering and economic analyses indicate the study area could experience $1.8 billion in average annual flood damages if no action is taken.
Last week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the AR6 Climate Change 2021 report highlighting current impacts of climate change and the urgent need to plan now for future impacts. To understand climate change impacts to our state specifically, New Jersey released the New Jersey 2020 Scientific Report on Climate Change. As part of the key findings from this report, annual precipitation is expected to increase from 7% to 11% by 2050 and occur in more intense rain events that is already resulting in an increase in localized flooding. By 2050, there is a 50% chance that sea-level rise will meet or exceed 1.4 feet and a 17% chance it will meet or exceed 2.1 feet, resulting in increased coastal flooding during sunny days and storm events, impacting infrastructure, residents and businesses. Sea level will further increase by 2100—by as much as 6 or more feet.
An Army Corps study team prepared the draft report to present findings, technical analyses, and outline the Tentatively Selected Plan. The Tentatively Selected Plan includes the following conceptual features:
Other non-structural measures (such as buyouts) and natural and nature-based features (such as enhancing marshes or creating living shorelines) could be added to the plan in the next phase of the plan process.
The study is cost-shared by the NJDEP and the Federal government and was developed out of the Army Corps’ North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study, which was undertaken after Hurricane Sandy. The draft report is being made available to the public in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act.
The public and stakeholders are invited to provide comments by October 12, 2021. To view the draft report, visit http://www.nap.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/New-Jersey-Back-Bays-Coastal-Storm-Risk-Management/
The Army Corps will host virtual public meetings to discuss the report and answer questions on Sept. 20, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Sept. 21 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Webinar details and instructions can be found on the study webpage at: https://www.nap.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/New-Jersey-Back-Bays-Study/
Note: Webinar space is limited, and it’s possible that demand could exceed capacity; please email questions before, during, or after the webinars to PDPA-NAP@usace.army.mil
Comments by email: PDPA-NAP@usace.army.mil
Comments in writing:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Planning Division
Attn: NJBB Study
100 Penn Square E.
Philadelphia PA 19107