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NJ DEP Still Focused on Sandy Restoration [AUDIO]

A year and a half after Superstorm Sandy slammed New Jersey, the state Department of Environmental Protection remains focused on programs to rebuild and replenish beaches and sand dunes, buy out homes that are repeatedly flooded, assist homeowners in high-risk areas to elevate their homes, and improve waste water and water treatment infrastructure.

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DEP Commissioner Bob Martin told lawmakers during a Budget Committee hearing that almost all of the beach replenishment projects — costing about $345 million — have been completed, and the dune replenishment projects will continue into next summer.

He also said the Blue Acres Superstorm Sandy home buyout program is continuing.

“The goal is to buy a total 1,300 homes in flood-prone areas along the coast and along the Raritan and Millstone rivers, and communities in the Passaic River basin,” Martin said.

The state anticipates using $300 million in federal disaster funds and some state funds to give homeowners the option to sell their Sandy-damaged homes.

“To date we have made offers to 338 homes, and 186 have accepted the offers,” Martin said. “Once the homes are purchased, this land will be permanently preserved as open space, accessible to the public for recreation or conservation. The preserved land will serve as a natural buffer against future storms and floods.”

He added that “there are 695 more properties in the pipeline in areas such as Old Bridge, Woodbridge, East Brunswick, Newark, Linden.”

Martin also said the state is overseeing the Hazard Mitigation grant program to help homeowners in nine counties elevate their homes in high-risk flood areas.

“There are 2,600 active applicants within the system, 757 applications have been sent to FEMA for final review and approval, and 26 have been approved,” Martin said.

He also indicated efforts are also moving forward to make wastewater and water treatment infrastructure more resilient, and federal funds are being utilized to do a lot of that work.

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