Draft 2014 New Jersey Hazard Mitigation Plan Available for Comment
March 11th, 2014 by Chris Sturm
State sets new precedent in allowing public comment on a state HMP
UPDATE: The public comment period opened March 11, but the state apparently had already submitted the plan by then. Please see the full story here.
New Jerseyans concerned about the state’s ability to withstand future storms now have the opportunity to weigh in on a document that could lay the groundwork for a more resilient future. Today, New Jersey’s Office of Emergency Management posted on its website the draft 2014 New Jersey Hazard Mitigation Plan (HMP). Comments will be accepted for a one-month period ending April 11. The state’s press release noted that this is the first time the public will have the opportunity to comment on the plan before it is submitted to FEMA for approval.
“New Jersey Future commends the state for engaging the public in determining how we can reduce the impact of disasters today and in the future, ” said Executive Director Peter Kasabach. “We have been requesting since last fall that the public be allowed to review a draft and are delighted that the public will now have this opportunity.”
The state HMP must be updated every three years in order for New Jersey to be eligible for FEMA pre- and post-disaster funding. According to the OEM release, “The State HMP captures historic disaster experiences, and reflects the natural and human-caused hazards New Jersey faces. The State HMP outlines a strategy to reduce risks form future hazards, and serves as the basis for prioritizing future funding.”
New Jersey Future will be analyzing the draft HMP and providing comments. The organization’s internal analysis of existing state and county hazard mitigation plans found three issues that need to be addressed. First, they failed to provide a comprehensive assessment of risk, in particular including future vulnerabilities to storm surge and rising sea levels. Second, they were typically adopted without engaging planning boards and their professional staffs, who have the tools to ensure that development and supporting infrastructure will be located and designed to minimize risk. And finally, municipalities were not fully engaged in the county plans, both to assess risks at the local level and to help prioritize mitigation approaches and projects.
“New Jersey’s Hazard Mitigation Plan will only make a difference if it leads to a change in the way decisions are made, not only regarding emergency response procedures but also regarding the location and resilience of infrastructure and development,” said New Jersey Future Senior Director of State Policy Chris Sturm. “We look forward to reviewing the state Hazard Mitigation Plan to ensure that it incorporates the lessons of Superstorm Sandy.”
A robust state HMP is a key tool to help all levels of government and the private sector establish new strategies for locations that have experienced repeated damage, and to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely to make people and properties safer, not to set them up for future damage. All interested individuals are strongly encouraged to submit comments on the draft state HMP via either the survey form or the email link provided on the draft plan web page.