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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 »

Big Fixes for Water Infrastructure Will Mean Bigger Bills for Customers

June 23rd, 2014 by New Jersey Future staff

Water woes and next steps — including special programs for low-income ratepayers — were the subject of a recent NJ Spotlight conference

Rutgers Professor Dan Van Abs, author of a new report on the state of New Jersey's urban water infrastructure.

Rutgers Professor Dan Van Abs, author of a new report on the state of New Jersey’s urban water infrastructure, delivering the keynote at NJ Spotlight’s conference.

With New Jersey facing an estimated $40 billion in costs over the next two or three decades to fix its aging water infrastructure, the state may need to set up a program to help lower income residents pay their escalating water and sewer bills.

There is little question those costs will increase for ratepayers, most panelists agreed at an NJ Spotlight roundtable in Trenton on June 20.

“It’s going to be expensive,’’ said Christopher Riatt, senior director of contract operations at United Water. “There’s going to be a great deal of backlash.’’ “The crisis is coming,’’ warned Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex), chairman of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. “I promise you that.’’

Read the full article at NJ Spotlight.

Experts Agree on Action Agenda To Address State’s Water Infrastructure Problems

June 18th, 2014 by Chris Sturm

NJFLOGO 070208sm                johnson foundation logo          Geraldine Dodge Foundation

Faced with a looming deadline, attendees at Jersey City meeting agreed on an “Agenda for Change” to catalyze the transformation of New Jersey’s aging urban water systems.

Agenda for ChangeOn May 20 and 21, at a convening organized by New Jersey Future, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, a group of 22 senior leaders from a broad range of organizations, including water utilities, environmental organizations, economic and community development organizations, the private sector and local governments, issued an agenda for change designed to transform New Jersey’s obsolete urban water systems.

“Everyone in the room agreed that this is one of the defining challenges New Jersey faces,” said New Jersey Future Executive Director Peter Kasabach. “For many reasons, upgrading our cities’ water infrastructure has been put on the back burner again and again, but we are now at the point where we cannot postpone it further without hindering the state’s economic prosperity and making us less competitive both in the region and in the world.”

Final permits for the combined sewer systems in 21 New Jersey cities are to be issued by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection later this year, at which point the organizations that oversee those systems will have three years to submit detailed long-term control plans (LTCPs) for upgrading them. Currently the systems are overwhelmed more and more frequently by storms of increasing intensity, resulting in the discharge of raw sewage into waterways, basements, streets and neighborhoods. Needed upgrades will cost billions of dollars, as detailed in New Jersey Future’s recent report, Ripple Effects. Jurisdictions that fail to meet the deadlines for adopting and implementing these plans face the possibility of lawsuits and federal court sanctions. Read the rest of this entry »

Little Egg Harbor, Tuckerton Receive $2.13-Million Resiliency Grant

June 18th, 2014 by Leah Yasenchak

Geotubes being installed in Ocean City, N.J. Photo: TenCate

Geotubes being installed in Ocean City, N.J. Photo: TenCate

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation recently announced that Little Egg Harbor Township and Tuckerton Borough have received a $2.13 million grant to install natural protections against sea level rise and storm events.  In addition to helping both communities, the project will benefit several surrounding public-trust lands: the Mystic Island Natural Lands Trust, the E.B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, and the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve Wildlife Management Area.

The two communities are sharing resources cooperatively on multiple resiliency efforts.  Each town has passed an agreement to work with New Jersey Future, via funding from the New Jersey Recovery Fund, to further resiliency through forward-looking land use planning. Read the rest of this entry »

Innovation Districts: New Jersey Has the Right Ingredients

June 5th, 2014 by Peter Kasabach

Rendering of the Innovation District along the South Boston waterfront. Source: Seaport District

Rendering of the Innovation District along the South Boston waterfront. Source: Seaport District

“Innovation districts” are economic development tools that utilize partnerships with higher education institutions, businesses, and government to fuel job growth and redevelopment in targeted locations. Innovation districts are based on the premise that collaboration and productivity result from proximity, and therefore job creation and innovation can be fostered through the intentional clustering of businesses, institutions, ideas and people. Innovation districts have been adopted by a variety of host cities in order to revitalize their communities and diversify their economies. Read the rest of this entry »

Getting to Resilience in Sea Bright

June 3rd, 2014 by Steve Nelson

Planting dune grass along South Beach in Sea Bright, December 2013. Photo by Steve Nelson.

Planting dune grass along South Beach in Sea Bright, December 2013. Photo by Steve Nelson.

The enormous impact of Superstorm Sandy is still being felt in dozens of communities across New Jersey, and with it a new understanding of the need to become more resilient to flooding hazards. Fortunately, a newly updated online tool is available and is being used to help communities take action to become less vulnerable and more prepared.

This tool – Getting to Resilience (GTR) – was developed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and enhanced by staff from the Jacques Costeau National Estuarine Research Reserve (JCNERR).  It allows communities to assess how prepared they are for flooding, coastal storms and sea-level rise. Read the rest of this entry »

Convening Aims to Develop an Agenda for Change for New Jersey’s Urban Water Infrastructure

May 20th, 2014 by New Jersey Future staff

NJFLOGO 070208sm                johnson foundation logo          Geraldine Dodge Foundation

Leaders Explore Challenges and Opportunities for Revamping Water, Wastewater, and Stormwater Infrastructure in New Jersey Cities

The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, New Jersey Future, and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation convened a group of New Jersey leaders from water utilities, environmental organizations, economic and community development organizations, the private sector and local, state and federal government today to develop and issue an action agenda to catalyze the transformation of New Jersey’s urban water infrastructure.

Ripple Effects - Report Page

The convening is informed by research conducted by New Jersey Future and Rutgers University, which focused on the 21 New Jersey municipalities that have combined sewer systems and experience combined sewer overflows (CSOs) during intense rainfall events. Discharges from these CSO events contain raw sewage and affect some of the state’s most iconic river systems – including the Hackensack, Passaic, Raritan, and Delaware rivers – polluting the environment and threatening public health.

Furthermore, additional pressure is being put on these systems by their cities’ recent resurgence. These 21 cities comprise nearly a fifth of New Jersey’s population and are projected to absorb much of the state’s future growth, presenting an opportunity for developers and cities to work together on creating water infrastructure that will meet this demand and support the revitalization of these cities into attractive settings for employers and residents. Read the rest of this entry »

Investing in Transit Is an Economic Incentive

May 14th, 2014 by Elaine Clisham

Two articles caught our attention recently, both of them about the importance of good transit to economic vitality.

In the first, chief executive officers of publicly-owned companies in the Tampa Bay area were asked what could or should be done to make the area more friendly to businesses. Their answer? Overwhelmingly, they wanted better transportation options for their workers, and specifically cited transit options as an important part of the mix. Read the rest of this entry »

New Report Highlights State’s Water Infrastructure Crisis

May 6th, 2014 by Chris Sturm


New Jersey’s cities face a multi-billion-dollar price-tag to fix combined sewer systems that dump over 7 billion gallons of raw sewage into our waterways every year.  

Ripple Effects - Report PageNew Jersey Future has released a major report highlighting the extreme degree to which the water infrastructure in New Jersey’s oldest cities is in disrepair; the threat this represents to those cities’ economic vitality; and the many barriers faced by efforts to repair and upgrade it.

The report is being released in two parts. The first part, Water Infrastructure in New Jersey’s CSO Cities: Elevating the Importance of Upgrading New Jersey’s Urban Water Systems, is an analysis of the extent of the problems in cities with the most obsolete form of wastewater infrastructure, combined sewer systems. The analysis was prepared by a team led by Daniel Van Abs Ph.D., associate research professor in Rutgers’ School of Environmental & Biological Sciences and current chairman of the New Jersey Clean Water Council. The second part of the report, Ripple Effectssummarizes the major findings in the Van Abs report and includes case studies from four New Jersey cities with combined sewer systems. Read the rest of this entry »

Highlands Development Regulations Not Responsible for Exurban Slowdown

April 24th, 2014 by Tim Evans

A rendering showing Brookwood Green at Byram Village Center in Byram Township.

The planned Brookwood Green at Byram Village Center. Byram’s Village Center plan will add 134 residential units in its planning area, which comprises only 1.6 percent of its total land area.

Is the recent slowdown – and in some cases, outright reversal – of population growth in New Jersey’s northwestern exurbs primarily attributable to restrictions on development imposed by the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act of 2004, as sometimes claimed by business and real estate interests and political figures? Or is there a larger phenomenon at work?

As our recent analysis showed, the population growth dynamic in New Jersey (and indeed nationally) since the recession in 2008 has been one of new growth happening in urban areas and older suburbs – places that hit their peak populations many decades ago but are now experiencing a second wind. Meanwhile, the outer-suburban counties that topped population growth lists in the 1990s and the early part of the 2000s fell to the middle of the pack, or even to the bottom. Read the rest of this entry »

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