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$1.28 billion approved for water infrastructure plans

Legislation authorizing $1.28 billion in state financing for drinking water and wastewater improvement projects will also allocate $355 million for resiliency and protection projects for Sandy-damaged infrastructure.

Governor Chris Christie (Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen)

The bulk of the money comes from a federal fund that is administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Approximately $335 million of that money is comprised of funding authorized by President Barack Obama for New Jersey and New York to do infrastructure repairs after the storm.

“Unlike the traditional program which really doesn’t focus on flood mitigation, this $355 million is specifically for flood resiliency,” said David Zimmer, executive director of the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust- an independent agency acting as the “banker” for the Department of Environmental Protection.

The legislation offers no-cost and low-cost administered to municipalities throughout the state at a AAA bond rating. It also offers partial grants for superstorm Sandy-related repairs.

“So if you borrow a million dollars, you’re going to pay $1.2 million after 20 years in interest. If you come into the program and it’s a Sandy expense, you’ll pay about $700,000 on that million bucks,” Zimmer said.

Sandy caused roughly $2.6 billion in damage to the state’s drinking and wastewater infrastructure. The $355 million will go toward the restoration and construction of flood walls, relocation of infrastructure to safer ground, emergency generators and portable pumping stations.

“So it spans the gamut at how people are looking at the components within their systems or the entire system itself. So the next time we get a Hurricane Irene where we get a lot of rain and saturation and you get water seeping up from the ground or you get something like Superstorm Sandy where you have a lot of wind and storm surge, we’ll be prepared,” Zimmer said.

There are several Sandy-related projects already planned including: $96 million for replacement and protection of pump stations in Sayreville and Edison, $42.8 million for restoration of facilities in Union Beach and $31.5 million for the raising of floodwalls of the New Jersey American Water treatment plant in Millstone.

Zimmer said many of the projects began almost immediately after the storm because the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust took out a bridge loan for municipalities and local governments.

“That bridge loan will fund them through once we start receiving the $355 million for the Sandy resiliency in the next few months,” Zimmer said.

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