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State’s Application to National Disaster Resilience Competition Is Strong, Can Be Stronger

March 12th, 2015 by

New Jersey Future supports the application and suggests ways to strengthen it to ensure resilience for all affected residents, especially the most vulnerable

On March 6, New Jersey Future submitted comments (pdf) on The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s draft application (pdf) to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s National Disaster Resilience Competition. The application makes New Jersey potentially eligible to receive up to $1 billion in federal funds. Modeled on the Rebuild By Design effort, the competition for communities recently struck by natural disasters was devised to help communities recover from disasters and improve their ability to prepare for and withstand future disasters.

The first phase of DEP’s application focuses on creating replicable pilot projects that address flooding risks in estuarine communities (communities at risk for coastal flooding but not oceanfront wave action, such as many of New Jersey’s “back bay” communities). The proposed “layered flood risk reduction measures” range from home elevation and wetlands preservation and restoration to buyouts of homes in flood-prone areas. If selected to participate in the second phase of the completion, the state will select specific pilot projects and articulate the design and means of implementation for each one.

DEP’s National Disaster Resilience Competition application offers tremendous opportunity for New Jersey to obtain additional federal funds to make the state more resilient to future storms and flooding events. New Jersey Future supports DEP’s application and in its comments commended the state’s acknowledgement of sea-level rise and associated flooding risks, the multi-pronged strategy approach to reducing these risks; and the objective of developing projects that are replicable in other communities, and that include metrics to measure success.

New Jersey Future’s comments provide suggestions for strengthening the application in order to match the federal guidelines more exactly and to ensure resilience for all affected residents, especially those who are most vulnerable. New Jersey Future cited three main areas where the DEP’s application can be improved. These include the development of concrete and measurable steps to ensure that vulnerable populations are identified and treated fairly; ensuring that the public is actively engaged and participating in the projects; and demonstrating that the project areas are designed to be resilient to storms and flooding both today and in the future.

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