Gov. Murphy: Buying out flood-prone NJ houses ‘not off the table’
Offering to buy-out flood-prone properties statewide is among options that need to remain on the table following the severe damages of Ida, Gov. Phil Murphy said on Wednesday.
"There's no amount of mitigation we can put in place that's going to keep them from the reality of the intensity and frequency of storms,” Murphy said, pointing to cases where some neighborhoods and communities are seeing repeat, severe flooding.
He didn't mention it by name, but the initiative has been around for over 25 years as the state’s Blue Acres program.
The state’s buyout of properties in flood-prone areas expanded sharply after Superstorm Sandy in 2012, with its roots back to 1995, through the state Department of Environmental Protection.
As of fall 2019, the strictly voluntary program for willing sellers had purchased about 1,000 properties — more than 700 of them since Sandy.
Property owners in Manville and Newark were among those who opted for buy-outs following Sandy.
Both communities were among those hard-hit again by Ida on Sept. 1.
Following this month's catastrophic storm, Peter Kasabach, New Jersey Future Executive Director, said that overdue infrastructure spending or Blue Acres buyouts of flood-prone homes could help — but that a comprehensive strategy must also include rethinking where it is safe to build.
The objective of the Blue Acres program is two-fold, as outlined in 2017 by DEP spokesman Larry Hajna to New Jersey 101.5.
“It’s to move people out of harm’s way and give them a viable option for relocation to a safer area. And two, it provides buffers to flooding through open space that help protect neighborhoods and communities."