Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

The Morris County Freeholders have approved a $416,000 grant allocation to buyout four more flood-threatened residential properties in the Lincoln Park under the county’s innovative Flood Mitigation Program, which has previously approved $4.5 million to partially fund purchases of 51 homes in seven towns.

Freeholders Approve Buyouts of Flood-Prone Lincoln Park Homes

The goal of the program, which currently has more than 40 pending projects in six municipalities, is to help towns secure flood-prone properties from willing sellers and convert the sites to permanently preserved open space, which naturally captures and absorbs flood water. 

Additionally, these acquisitions lower municipal costs. Every project is subject to a detailed benefit-cost analysis based on FEMA computer models. On average, these Morris County projects have yielded a 7:1 benefit cost ratio (for every $1 spent by the county, there are $7 in benefits to the towns and county).

“Most importantly, we are helping to get county residents out of harm’s way in places that are likely to be struck by floods in the future,’’ said Freeholder Director Kathy DeFillippo.

“It also eases the burdens on first responders, who are called upon to rescue threatened families from flood water, and helps protects other nearby homes and businesses from subsequent flooding,’’ added Freeholder John Cesaro, who is the county governing board’s liaison on open space issues.  

The county program supplements state and federal flood buyouts programs.

The freeholders voted 7-0 to approve the allocation for the Lincoln Park properties at the board’s June 24 meeting. Approval was based on the recommendations of the Morris County Flood Mitigation Committee, which reviewed the applications. With this final approval, Lincoln Park may now proceed to closing on these properties, located on President Street, Midwood Road, Riveredge Road, and Pequannock Avenue

The board established the Flood Mitigation Program in 2012 in response to increased, repetitive flooding in the county, especially the excessive flooding caused by Hurricane Irene in 2011. It is an expansion of the Morris County Open Space, Farmland, and Historic Preservation Trust, and is funded by the county’s open space tax. 

As flood insurance rates rise significantly due to recent federal legislation, more homeowners are considering flood buyouts as an escape from destructive, repetitive flooding and the increasing cost of home ownership in the floodplains. In 2014, the average flood insurance policy nationwide cost $468; in 2015 this cost jumped to $708. As federal subsidies for flood insurance gradually diminish to zero, insurance premiums will continue to rise until they reach their true actuarial risk.

The Morris County Flood Mitigation Program was the first program at the county level in New Jersey dedicated to acquiring flood-prone homes and land. It was honored by the state DEP with a 2014 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award.

According to Jennifer McCulloch, coordinator of the Flood Mitigation Program, the program is structured with two basic funding tracks. The “MATCH Program’’ provides a 25 percent county match for projects already underway with agencies, such as Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or DEP’s Blue Acres Program,

The second funding track, or “CORE Program,” is designed to catch homes that have fallen through other agency’s funding nets, with Morris County providing up to 75 percent of the acquisition cost.   

So far, the county has provided grant funding for buyouts in Boonton, Denville, Lincoln Park, Morristown, Parsippany, Pequannock and Riverdale. Funds have been approved pending acquisitions in Long Hill, as well.

Grant applications are considered from municipalities only for acquisition of flood-affected residences from willing sellers. All county funds go directly to municipalities, which purchase the properties and must maintain the land as public open space in perpetuity, said McCulloch.

Additional information is available at http://www.morrispreservation.com, or by calling 973-829-8120.