IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Two bills brought by North Jersey lawmakers and approved by their colleagues in Trenton aim to bring relief to flood-prone areas of the state. One allows municipalities to establish open space trust funds specifically to buy flooded properties.
The other creates the Bergen-Rockland Bistate River Commission to develop a coordinated flood management and prevention plan between the neighboring counties.
Under the more prominent measure, local councils would have to seek voter approval first for an annual levy at a rate deemed appropriate, in a long-term solution similar to the federal “Green Acres” program.
“What might have been a viable property years ago isn’t necessarily the case now due to development, infrastructure and changing weather patterns,” said Bergen County Assemblywoman Connie Wagner, one of the measure’s sponsors. “It’s time to look at the bigger picture and figure out how we can address this problem moving forward.”
“Residents need more than a Band Aid,” added Assemblywoman Valerie Vanieri-Huttle, a co-sponsor. “They need a long-term solution to help avoid flood-related damage altogether.”
Under current law, municipalities are authorized to establish “Municipal Open Space, Recreation, and Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Funds.” The new law amends the name of these municipal open space trust funds to “Municipal Open Space, Recreation, Floodplain Protection, and Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Funds.”
More importantly, the bill would also include “Blue Acres projects” for restoring the natural state or creating recreational areas on land that has been damaged by, or may be prone to incurring damage caused by, storms or storm-related flooding, or that may buffer or protect other lands from such damage.
The funds would be allowed to be used for the demolition of structures or the removal of debris from those properties.
The second me
asure creates an 18-member commission that would, in the wording of the bill “facilitate the cooperation of governments in New Jersey and New York to protect the streams flowing south from Rockland County into Bergen County[,] including the Hackensack River, Sparkill Brook/Creek, Saddle River, Ramapo/Mahwah River and their tributaries and communities that are prone to flooding.”
“After suffering through the wettest year ever recorded in New Jersey, we need a common-sense approach to managing waterways that will protect our residents’ homes,” said Assemblyman Bob Schroeder of Washington Township, one of the law’s sponsors. “This approach will make sure everyone is working together on this issue in an inclusive way.
“Piecemeal approaches have not resolved this perpetual problem,” added Schroeder (below). “The creation of a bistate commission is a long overdue initiative to tackling the ongoing flooding that has plagued our region for far too long.”
“Both states must work together to manage streams and mitigate the devastating impacts of floods because overflowing water knows no boundaries,” added fellow Bergen Republican Assembly member Charlotte Vandervalk, another co-sponsor.
The new measure “gets everyone working together on a comprehensive plan to prevent the flooding of these regional waterways,” she said.
Elected officials in both states would appoint the commissioners, whose duties would include “coordinating a comprehensive plan to remediate existing hazards, assessing potential development that could impact the waterways and coordinating environmental cleanup, maintenance and protection efforts.”
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