New Jersey Communities Already Have Tool to Fight Flooding | Opinion
By Jennifer M. Coffey
The climate crisis is causing more intense and frequent flooding in New Jersey. Most of the state experienced flooding this past weekend that was almost as intense as Hurricane Irene in 2011 for central Jersey and Super Storm Sandy in 2012 for coastal areas.
The climate crisis is increasing the temperature of the oceans. These high temperatures provide energy to storms that allow them to move further north with greater frequency and intensity than ever before. Unfortunately, hurricanes and nor’easters traveling north from the equator are only one source of our flooding problems.
Earlier this month, the United Nations issued a “code red for humanity” linked to the climate crisis. The sixth edition of the UN Climate Report provides a rigorous, evidence-based assessment of the impacts of the climate crisis. In short, in New Jersey we can expect to have too much water and increased flooding, except when we don’t have enough water and experience longer spells of drought and drought. .
When updates to New Jersey’s flood risk protection regulations are released later this year, they should show that within the next 30 years, our current 500-year-old floodplain will in fact be our floodplain of 100 years. Simply put, our floodplains are widening. Anyone who lives in New Jersey knows this happens. Frequent flooding pollutes our waters, causing millions of dollars in damage, disrupting traffic, threatening drinking water and even putting lives at risk in New Jersey. The time has passed for wringing our hands on the problem. It’s time to act.
Summer thunderstorms are becoming more and more intense. We are seeing greater amounts of precipitation over shorter periods of time. None of our current infrastructure or regulations are designed to handle this increased precipitation over a short period of time. This is why our floods are getting worse. The intense development of New Jersey compounds the problem.
The first set of comprehensive stormwater management regulations we passed in the state dates back to 2004. These rules were designed to keep things from getting worse, but did not take into account climate change and storm rates. precipitation. As one of the original 13 settlements, New Jersey has over 300 years of experience in developing poor stormwater management. We must act now to improve stormwater management that corrects the problems of the past and tackles the climate pressures we are experiencing now and will worsen in the future.
The Flood Defense Act was passed by the state legislature with bipartisan support and was enacted by Gov. Phil Murphy in 2019. Stormwater utilities give more control to local government officials over solve the flooding problems that plague the people who live, work and play in their communities.
A stormwater utility is widely viewed as the most effective – and fairest – model for dealing with the growing threats from stormwater. It is a dedicated local fund that is treated like water, sewage, electricity or other utilities. A stormwater utility assesses user charges based on the hard surface, such as concrete, roofs, or pavement, on a property. The revenues finance stormwater projects and are segregated from general funds, so they cannot be looted or spent on other needs. Stormwater service charges are kept in a dedicated fund which, by law, can only be spent on stormwater projects and programs. Auditors will monitor these funds to ensure that they are not looted or transferred to other needs.
The law authorizes New Jersey counties and municipalities – on a purely voluntary basis – to create much-needed community stormwater management programs that reduce pollution and control local flooding.
Legislation makes our neighborhoods cleaner, greener and safer, and can help create good local jobs. Over 1,700 stormwater utilities have been established in the United States, including New York and Philadelphia counties, where the average monthly cost to residents is $ 11 per month. It’s time for New Jersey municipalities and counties to start using this tool to protect lives, drinking water quality, residents and businesses.
Jennifer M. Coffey is the Executive Director of the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions (ANJEC). ANJEC is a founding member of the Flood Defense Coalition, a group of New Jersey nonprofit organizations dedicated to providing technical resources, policy support, and grants to local governments evaluating service implementation. storm water to reduce flooding.
Our journalism needs your support. Please register today at NJ.com.
here is how to submit an editorial or letter to the editor. Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow us on twitter @NJ_Opinion and on Facebook at Opinion NJ.com. Get the latest updates straight to your inbox. Subscribe to NJ.com newsletters.