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Hoboken’s Newest Green Infrastructure Project Takes a Step Forward

June 26th, 2014 by New Jersey Future staff

New Jersey Future summer intern MicKenzie Roberts-Lahti is the author of this article. 

Rendering of proposed Southwest Park in Hoboken. Photo credit: Starr Whitehouse

Rendering of proposed Southwest Park in Hoboken. Photo credit: Starr Whitehouse

The City of Hoboken has received a $250,000 grant for the next phase of construction of Southwest Park. This grant, from the U.S. Department of Interior and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, will fund the engineering designs needed to transform a one-acre parking lot into a green park.

Southwest Park was the subject of one of several stories in New Jersey Future’s new report, Ripple Effects: The State of Water Infrastructure in New Jersey Cities and Why it Matters, that highlight how water infrastructure affects people. Stormwater management, especially in urban areas, is a growing problem in New Jersey because of the age of much of its water infrastructure. Hoboken is one of the 21 cities in the state that have combined sewer systems, meaning both sewage and stormwater are handled by the wastewater treatment plant. During heavy rain events these combined sewers overflow, causing local property damage and affecting water quality by sending dilute raw sewage into local waterways. Read the rest of this entry »

Placing Economic Value on Natural Systems

June 25th, 2014 by New Jersey Future staff

New Jersey Future summer intern Kevin Burkman is the author of this article. 

Photo courtesy of Blue Raritan

The sixth annual Sustainable Raritan River Conference, “Valuing Natural Capital and Ecosystems Services,” focused on ecosystem valuation. Placing economic value on ecosystems is a concept that attempts to recognize the financial importance of natural systems such as forests, waterways, air and open space. These natural attributes provide important ecological services, including water and air purification, nutrient and sediment controls, pollination, and flood protection. Retaining or rehabilitating these “services” is key to reducing the substantial costs of mitigating the sometimes deleterious effects both nature and humans can have on the landscape. These ecosystem services may also generate new direct revenues.

Over a dozen speakers at the conference, including academics, professionals, conservationists and municipal leaders, discussed the importance of quantifying the values of natural systems and integrating them into the economy, planning, and human and environmental health.

Patricia Elkis, deputy director of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), focused on a particular type of natural capital: open space. Her presentation, “Return on the Environment and Quantifying Economic Value of Protected Open Space in Southeastern Pennsylvania,” looked at that region as a case study and highlighted the economic and health importance of open space and trail systems. Read the rest of this entry »

Stormwater Utilities: A Tool for Managing Rainwater Runoff

September 16th, 2014 by New Jersey Future staff

The following article was written by New Jersey Future summer intern MicKenzie Roberts-Lahti.


Diagram of how urban sewersheds function with separate (left) and combined (right) stormwater/sewage systems. Source: USEPA

Diagram of how urban sewersheds function with separate (left) and combined (right) stormwater/sewage systems. (Click on image for larger view.) Source: USEPA

In 2008, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ranked stormwater management – the control of flooding and pollution caused by rainwater runoff – as New Jersey’s number one water-related need. Stormwater management affects urban, suburban, and rural municipalities, above and below ground.  When aging water infrastructure breaks, when flooding results from pipe systems overloaded with rainwater, when sewage backs up into streets and basements, and when runoff pollutes waterways, New Jerseyans experience the negative effects firsthand. A failure to manage stormwater infrastructure effectively can create sinkholes, close businesses, damage property, contaminate drinking water and cause sewage overflows.

A new report (PDF) prepared by New Jersey Future intern MicKenzie Roberts-Lahti, examines the use of one tool – the stormwater utility – to manage stormwater. Stormwater utilities provide a mechanism for raising funds dedicated to stormwater management – for the construction, operation, and maintenance of stormwater infrastructure and for the development of related water-quality programs and public education.  Stormwater utilities assume responsibility for maintenance and upgrading of things like storm sewers and for developing asset management plans to maximize their useful life.

The report, Stormwater Utilities: A Funding Solution for New Jersey’s Stormwater Problems, provides an introduction to and description of stormwater utilities as a tool to manage stormwater more effectively. It includes an overview of the more than 1,400 communities around the country that have set up stormwater utilities; it provides examples of prevalent stormwater management practices, utility operations, and finance systems; and it discusses the various choices available to stormwater utilities for operations, planning, and financing. For example, the management of stormwater can be assigned to a separate entity or remain with a municipal public works or water department, and funding can be based on the amount of impervious pavement at the individual property level or as a flat fee.

The role of the New Jersey state government to authorize the local creation of stormwater utilities is also discussed. New Jersey is one of the 11 states without a single stormwater utility, although a current bill in the state legislature (A-1583/S-579) would grant all municipalities, counties and local government utility authorities that have combined sewer systems the authority to create such a utility.

Download the full report.

Energy Resiliency Bank Proposal: Right Concept, but Needs Detail To Protect Against Flooding

September 15th, 2014 by Chris Sturm

An energy resiliency bank would enable financing of upgrades to critical water and wastewater infrastructure to enable them to withstand future severe weather.

An energy resiliency bank would enable financing of upgrades to critical water and wastewater infrastructure to enable them to withstand future severe weather.

On Sept. 5, New Jersey Future submitted its official comments (PDF) on the state’s proposal to establish an Energy Resiliency Bank (ERB). The ERB would provide a funding mechanism, available initially to water and wastewater utilities, for use in making their power systems more resilient to flooding and severe weather.

As the comments stressed, the overall proposal marries the need for “hardening” critical pieces of infrastructure with innovative financing and fills an undeniable need.  New Jersey is vulnerable to flooding and has suffered severe hurricane damage in two successive years, leaving some communities without water and threatening the integrity of many wastewater systems. The threat to these facilities will only grow as sea levels rise. Read the rest of this entry »

Sept. 15 Community Meeting Will Focus on Reopening of Downtown Trenton’s Assunpink Creek

September 11th, 2014 by Nicholas Dickerson

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Trenton are preparing to undertake a habitat restoration project in the city’s downtown that will add additional parkland and natural space.

ClusterBlogTRENTON–Downtown Trenton will finally reclaim the Assunpink Creek, a vital piece of the city’s historical and natural character, after a decade of studies, plans and immeasurable red tape. This exciting project will create new public park land, remove an unsafe and unsightly eyesore and establish an important new, visually appealing nature-based centerpiece for the downtown. More than 40 years ago the Assunpink Creek, a natural waterway that begins in Monmouth County, was diverted into a concrete tube – a culvert – between S. Broad Street and S. Warren Street in downtown Trenton, and buried underground. The action of burying the creek caused significant ecological harm and disregarded the creek’s historical and cultural importance. Today, the only visual evidence that something exists below ground there are gaping concrete holes in the top of the culvert and an unsightly chain-link fence.
Read the rest of this entry »

Thought Leaders to Gather at Regional Conference Oct. 10

September 11th, 2014 by Teri Jover

Fourth Regional PlanNew Jersey Future and Regional Plan Association, with participation from Together North Jersey, are convening a New Jersey Regional Conference to bring forward the next generation of “big ideas” to enhance prosperity, livability, and environmental sustainability in the tri-state region. The event is part of creating RPA’s Fourth Regional Plan, whose predecessor, the Third Regional Plan, helped lead to the preservation of the New Jersey Highlands, regional rail improvements and the redevelopment of Governor’s Island into a park.

The Regional Conference will be held on Friday, Oct. 10 at Seton Hall University in Newark from 8:30 to 11:30 am. It is free and open to the interested public. Bring your big ideas for guiding the future of our tri-state region.  Be sure to mark your calendars! Registration and more information to follow soon.

Delegation From Japan Visits To Compare Notes on Disaster Preparedness

September 11th, 2014 by Peter Kasabach

L to R, front row: Katsumi Seki, visiting professor, Graduate School of Management, Kyoto University; Yoshiaki Kawata, director and professor, Research Center for Social Safety Science, Kansai University. Back row: Dave Mammen, church administrator, Rutgers Presbyterian Church; Ichiro Matsuo, deputy director, Research Institute for Disaster Mitigation and Environmental Studies, Crisis & Environment Management Policy Institute; Joel Challender, researcher, Crisis & Environment Management Policy Institute; Chris Sturm, state policy director, New Jersey Future; David Kutner, recovery planning manager, New Jersey Future. Photo: Peter Kasabach

L to R, front row: Katsumi Seki, visiting professor, Graduate School of Management, Kyoto University; Yoshiaki Kawata, director and professor, Research Center for Social Safety Science, Kansai University. Back row: Dave Mammen, church administrator, Rutgers Presbyterian Church; Ichiro Matsuo, deputy director, Research Institute for Disaster Mitigation and Environmental Studies, Crisis & Environment Management Policy Institute; Joel Challender, researcher, Crisis & Environment Management Policy Institute; Chris Sturm, state policy director, New Jersey Future; David Kutner, recovery planning manager, New Jersey Future. Photo: Peter Kasabach

On Sept. 9 a small delegation of disaster-preparedness experts from Japan came to the New Jersey Future offices to discuss policy, planning and local capacity-building. This was just one stop on their multi-day tour of post-Sandy America. They had come to learn as much as possible in preparation for dealing with the increasing frequency of natural disasters facing Japan.

Some of the highlights from the discussion: Read the rest of this entry »

Report: Prompt Action Is Needed for Best-Practices Upgrade of New Jersey’s Urban Water Infrastructure

September 9th, 2014 by Nicholas Dickerson

BlogPost_9_9_14On Sept. 4, The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread released its convening report detailing the findings and lessons learned from the May 20-21 event  that explored how New Jersey’s municipalities can address the problems presented by aging water infrastructure systems. Hosted by The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and New Jersey Future and with the support of honorary co-chairs, former Governors Jim Florio and Christie Whitman, the gathering allowed New Jersey thought leaders to hear from experts from Washington, D.C., Cincinnati and North Carolina. The message from these speakers was clear: New Jersey’s cities should address their aging water systems and required upgrades now, to avoid potential litigation and court-imposed sanctions that would limit their flexibility.

Roxanne Qualls, former mayor and two-time councilwoman of Cincinnati, stressed the importance of keeping the community engaged throughout the process of planning for water infrastructure upgrades. She described how Cincinnati officials made the benefits of upgrading their infrastructure tangible and visible by incorporating green infrastructure that created new parks and green jobs for residents and revitalized neighborhoods.

George Hawkins, general manager for DC Water, described first-hand the costs of inaction in Washington, D.C., where a court-imposed consent decree mandated the construction of expensive underground stormwater storage tunnels. He explained that this heavy-handed approach has limited the city’s ability to explore alternatives that would be visible to the public, unlike the tunnels. He recommended engaging affected mayors personally and early in the planning effort for water infrastructure upgrades.

Jeff Hughes, director of the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina, shared the work done by his organization to answer the most pressing question that most municipalities will likely face:  funding. His organization provides information and tools to assist municipalities and utilities in making informed decisions on how best to fund water infrastructure improvements.

This report is part of a larger effort by New Jersey Future to highlight the importance of water resources as key to advancing New Jersey’s prosperity and environmental health. Included in the report is the Agenda for Change agreed to by the attendees from the May meeting. To learn more about New Jersey Future’s water infrastructure efforts, please visit our water resource page.

As part of the foundation’s mission to serve as a catalyst for change, The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, through its Charting New Waters initiative,  brings together experts and thought leaders from across the country to examine freshwater-related challenges, successes, innovations and potential solutions that can bridge geographies and inform state and national policy.

Creating a Voice for the Voiceless in a Changing Urban Climate

September 4th, 2014 by New Jersey Future staff

By Deborah Kim Gaddy

Deborah Kim Gaddy is an environmental justice organizer for Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund

Cross-posted from The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread’s Inspiring Solutions series on urban water infrastructure


Gaddy

Deborah Kim Gaddy

New Jersey’s older cities were built with water at their core – for industry, goods movement, plumbing, drinking and recreational enjoyment. Despite these best-laid plans, pipes and treatment plants alone are no longer affordable as the sole solution to growing needs and climate change. Climate change means both more extreme wet AND dry weather ahead. Future cities must be designed to absorb more water onsite and at other times save it for future beneficial uses. Adding low-cost water infrastructure, such as rain barrels and cisterns, collects floodwaters for a more positive purpose while conserving more expensive potable water for its primary use – drinking. We all know the benefits of green infrastructure are both immediate and long-term. This type of infrastructure can:

  • Reduce routine flooding, as well as during extreme weather events;
  • Create less strain on older pipes and treatment plants to manage capacity;
  • Temper the heat island effect;
  • Create recreational space for much-needed physical exercise, play and restorative enjoyment; and
  • Provide more oxygen-producing plants and trees that improve physical, psychological and emotional health.

Read the full article on The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread’s website.


Documentary About Coastal Development in New Jersey To Be Shown in Rumson

August 27th, 2014 by Steve Nelson

The documentary film Shored Up, which examines the collision between coastal development and severe weather in New Jersey and North Carolina, will be shown Sept. 20 at a special screening in Rumson. New Jersey Future, which is working with Sea Bright and Highlands on long-term recovery planning after Hurricane Sandy, is sponsoring the screening.

At the conclusion of the film there will be a panel discussion and question-and-answer session featuring the film’s director and several local coastal and environmental scientists.

Read the rest of this entry »

Survey Will Help Sandy-Affected Towns Address Future Flood Risks

August 26th, 2014 by David Kutner

mouse-surveyA new survey, commissioned by New Jersey Future and the Sandy-affected communities where its local recovery planning managers are working, will help provide information on how well-prepared community members are to address the risks they face related to flooding and sea-level rise.

The survey, administered by Carnegie Mellon’s Department of Social and Decision Sciences, asks community members to share their beliefs and understanding about flooding and sea-level rise. The results will assist those communities in developing public outreach and education strategies that provide the most relevant and helpful information on ways the community can prepare itself for flood-related risks.

The local recovery planning manager program has placed recovery managers in six New Jersey towns that were especially hard-hit by Sandy — Highlands, Sea Bright, Little Egg Harbor, Tuckerton, Commercial and Maurice River. Through a grant to New Jersey Future, the recovery managers are available at no cost to help their communities with long-term recovery and resiliency planning.

After researchers from Carnegie Mellon compile survey responses, the results will be presented to municipal officials, who will then review the findings at public meetings in each of the towns. The meetings will also serve as forums for public input on various land use planning and public investment strategies the communities could consider to help reduce exposure to future flooding and storm events.

The survey will be open until Sept. 30, and all residents in the six towns are encouraged to complete it.

Flood risk survey

Shared Investment in Urban Water Systems Will Lead to Clean Rivers, More Vibrant Communities

August 25th, 2014 by New Jersey Future staff

By Chris Daggett and Margaret Waldock

Chris Daggett is the president and chief executive officer of The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation; Margaret Waldock is the foundation’s environment program director.

Cross-posted from The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread’s Inspiring Solutions series on urban water infrastructure


Chris Daggett

Chris Daggett

Stormwater can be our savior if we view New Jersey’s water infrastructure crisis as an opportunity to create the kinds of communities we want to live in — healthy, resilient, walkable places with tree-lined streets, green buildings, clean rivers and vibrant waterfronts.

Twenty-one urban communities in New Jersey are facing a daunting challenge — a need to upgrade century-old, combined sewer systems, where sewer and stormwater lines are connected. When it rains, sometimes as little as one-half inch, the sewage treatment plants reach capacity, causing polluted water to bypass treatment plants, flow directly into waterways and, in the worst cases, flood neighborhood streets.

Margaret Waldock

Margaret Waldock

The result is a risk to public health, urban waters, and the prospect of stymied economic investment and revitalization. We need to act, but these communities cannot shoulder this burden alone while they are juggling many other equally urgent issues, such as creating jobs, reducing crime and strengthening public education.

Federal and state regulations require that cities must control these combined sewer overflows. By year’s end, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection will issue final permits for the cities with these systems, requiring development and implementation of long-term control plans.

 

Read the full article on The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread’s website.

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