New Jersey Tightens Flood Control Rules After 100 Year Floods
The state of New Jersey is still dealing with the once-a-century damage done by flooding rains in late June and July. Governor Jon Corzine says the state will pay the local communities’ share of Federal Emergency Management Authority costs associated with the floods, FEMA covers up to 75% of disaster claims, and local or state governments must pick up the rest of the bill.
Rain fell over the Delaware River Basin every day from June 23 to June 28, 2006. Total rainfall ranged from three to 6.5 inches across the New Jersey part of the basin and seven to 15 inches in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Most flooding in New Jersey occurred along the mainstem of the Delaware River. Gages along the Delaware recorded peak flow consistent with 70 year to greater than 100 year recurrence interval floods, which has only a 1.0% probability of occurrence in any given year.
To limit the damage in flood years, the government announced changes to the rules of the Flood Hazard Area Control Act that restricts new development in flood plains, as recommended by New Jersey’s Flood Mitigation Task Force report.
“We won’t ever stop floods from happening but we can mitigate their impact,” Governor Corzine said. “By implementing a number of new regulations, preventing development in flood-prone areas, and improving drainage all along the Delaware Valley, we’re taking steps that provide both immediate and long-term impact.”
The new rules will clarify and reorganize New Jerseys regulations to discourage or mitigate new development in flood plains.
Current buffer zones of 25 to 50 feet will increase to 50, 150 or 300 feet, depending on the category of the waterway.
To provide additional buffer protection, the administration will support the inclusion of funding within the Garden State Preservation Trust for the purchase of low-lying properties, known as Blue Acres, which are prone to flooding.
“We believe these are substantive recommendations for averting destruction of property and for protecting lives in communities repeatedly ravaged by flooding,”said Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Lisa Jackson.
“The regulations being proposed today are among the nation’s strongest for providing stream corridor protections and for imposing limitations on development in a flood plain,” she said.
Increased access to general permits will streamline activities as complicated as using machinery to remove major obstructions from waterways or elevating buildings above flood hazard areas, as well as activities as simple as building a fence or a patio, Jackson said.
The new permits-by-rule will give property owners authorization to undertake specific regulated activities without the need to obtain prior written approval from the DEP.
To handle the first of the top three immediate local problem spots, the state Department of Transportation will evaluate possible drainage improvements along the Route 29 corridor.
The DEP and the federal Natural Resource Conservation Service are exploring preventative measures to keep Swan Creek from backing up into Lambertville. And the New Jersey Water Supply Authority has hired an engineering firm to address breach concerns in the Stockton Canal, and is also clearing debris to improve drainage and make repairs all along the Delaware Canal.
Provided by the Environmental News Service.