A new push in NJ to prevent localized flooding
As part of an effort to improve water quality and mitigate the worsening impacts of flooding caused by development and climate change, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is offering millions of dollars in grant money to help towns, counties and utility authorities modernize stormwater management systems.
Ed Potosnak, the executive director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, applauded the announcement.
He said upgrading stormwater management systems is critically important to stop flooding from overflowing rivers and streams, and reduce pollution levels that wind up in drinking water supplies.
Potosnak explained when rain hits parking lots, streets and other hardened surfaces across the state it goes into stormwater gutters picking up pollutants, “and in addition the volume itself causes flooding, so we are polluting our waterways at a greater rate than ever before, and in addition we are flooding more frequently.”
Sunny day flooding
Potosnak noted more and more coastal communities and towns in North Jersey, like Hoboken, are experiencing more frequently “sunny day” flooding.
“That’s a real challenge for us because you can’t get to and from work or doing something for fun. You can’t operate a business if you’re flooded," he said.
He pointed out DEP money is also being made available to help communities create stormwater utilities, which don’t exist yet in New Jersey.
He said these organizations would be empowered to charge a small fee for concrete and pavement and then use that money to put in infrastructure, including gardens and rain barrels, to catch massive amounts of water that would leave a surface like a parking lot.
“Then it can be retained and cleaned up before it makes its way into the river, and then folks would get a credit for any fees that are charged for that hardened surface,” Potosnak said.
He stressed we are seeing increased amounts of flooding all over New Jersey due to overdevelopment.
“We have developed in places that are now not available for the water in nature to do its thing, which would normally be to filter it out and hold onto it so it wouldn’t run unabated into our rivers and streams.”
Action is needed
Potosnak said as flooding continues to get worse, now is the time to act.
“We have a chance here to do something about it, to invest in our outdated infrastructure – and it will really make a difference.”
Due to high demand, the DEP has extended the deadline for counties, municipalities and public utility authorities to apply for stormwater management assistance grants to Sept. 23. The application deadline for the Stormwater Competitive Grant Program remains Sept. 14.