Posted Monday, December 9th, 2013

Morris County’s innovative FloodMitigation Program has been honored by the New Jersey Floodplain Management Association with the group’s “2013 Outstanding Floodplain Management Award.”

The association recognized the Morris Countyprogram for working most effectively with local, state and federal partners to buy out numerous flood-prone residential properties and create open space.

NJAFM praised MorrisCounty for its vision and innovation in launching the Flood Mitigation Program and for the success the program has achieved to date, and expressed the hope other New Jersey counties would follow Morris’ lead and create their own dedicated flood acquisition programs.

The program, created by the Morris County Freeholders in March 2012 in response to intense flooding from Hurricane Irene, is the first county-level, dedicated flood mitigation acquisition program in the state.

“That storm really called attention to the repetitive flooding that so many of our communities have wrestled with over the years,” said Freeholder Director Tom Mastrangelo. “After Irene, the freeholders agreed that we needed to come up with a more pro-active approach to move people out of flood-prone areas and reduce the devastation caused by flooding.”

Focused on lowering municipal costs by moving people out of harm’s way, the program provides grant funding to towns to purchase flood-prone homes and land from willing sellers.  The land is then allowed to revert to its natural state, creating open space that captures and stores future flood waters.

“The program is accomplishing exactly what it was intended to accomplish.” said Freeholder Ann Grossi, the program’s freeholder liaison who introduced the idea of creating a flood mitigation program to the freeholder board after Irene.  “The intent was to protect remaining homes, businesses and residents by permanently freeing homeowners and municipalities from the expensive, destructive cycle of repetitive flooding.”

In less than two years since its inception, the Morris County Flood Mitigation Program has 117 projects underway in seven towns, with $16.5 million encumbered for acquisitions, said Jennifer McCulloch, coordinator of the program.

McCulloch noted 36 property closings have taken place with many demolitions already complete.  The program has attracted over $29 million in federal and state grant funding and has provided an estimated $82 million in benefits to local governments, she said.

“Applications continue to roll in from municipalities currently involved, as well as from those exploring this flood mitigation option for the first time,” McCulloch said.

The Morris County Flood Mitigation Program has also been recognized by the national Association of State Floodplain Managers, which invited the county to present the program to more than 1,200 conference attendees at the ASFPM national conference in June. The association’s “how-to guide” for flood mitigation features Morris County’s program as a national model.

Morris County’s story will serve as a shining example of a community-funded flood mitigation acquisition program,” ASFPM Board Director Terry Turner said.

Since MorrisCounty’s Flood Mitigation Program was created, Bergen County has established one of its own.