New Jersey is the 10th state to launch its own offshoot of a national portal that allows people in coastal communities to upload photos of ocean, bay, and tidal river flooding, to help their government representatives make more informed decisions about mitigation strategies.

And to promote the MyCoast tool, anyone who submits a picture in any one of those flooding categories by Saturday could eventually win some swag, including hats, mugs, and most appropriately, a flood emergency kit.

Vanessa Dornisch, coastal training program coordinator for the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve, said there is another, separate photo classification: "Places We Love."

All of the submissions will help paint a fuller picture of life at the Jersey Shore, in both good times and bad, and may also raise the profile of MyCoast itself, whether users go to the website or download the mobile app.

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"We don't want to take just bad pictures of flood events, but also photos that show how valuable the coastline is to us, and that also helps to drive home that message of why we should care about flooding," Dornisch said. "This contest will help gather photos and get everybody starting to use it, and then we plan to use this for years and years to come."

This particular time of year was chosen for the contest because it traditionally features the highest tides of the year, or the "King Tides." However, it also sets the contest up to align with the beginning of the summer tourism season.

Dornisch said year-round residents of flood-prone areas already know where flooding is most likely, but their photography skills could help inform the countless visitors who descend upon shore towns each summer.

The governmental flooding models that already exist are informative and instructive, she said, but they're not perfect.

"Those folks coming in may not know that there is the chance of flooding in their area. So this is an opportunity for people to be able to actually see what happens on the ground, even if they're only there for a weekend, or only there for a couple weeks," Dornisch said. "There's also a ton of infrastructure decisions that are made by all different agencies, and that are made by the local government too, and so really all levels of government can use this."

The Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve is jointly managed by Rutgers University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and is partnering with the state Department of Environmental Protection to start up New Jersey's version of the MyCoast portal.

Dornisch said the DEP's involvement is part of its efforts to combat the effects of climate change.

Finalists in the King Tide Photo Contest will be chosen and publicized in early June, followed by a public voting period, with winners to be announced on June 21 — the first full day of summer.

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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