Posted Monday, December 15th, 2014

The Morris County government has been honored with a 2014 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award in the Land Conservation category for the county’s innovative flood mitigation program.

Morris County was one of several government, environmental, academic, business, civic and citizen leaders from across New Jersey recognized Dec. 8 by the Christie Administration for their commitment to protect and enhance the state’s environment.

The Morris County Freeholders approved the ambitious flood buyout program in 2012 in response to intense flooding caused by Hurricane Irene in 2011.

“It was the first program at the county level in New Jersey dedicated to acquiring flood-prone homes and land,” said Morris County Freeholder Director Tom Mastrangelo.

The flood mitigation program is part of the county’s open space initiative and is meant to assist municipalities in the acquisition of those residential properties.

“The county offers grants to towns to buy properties to move residents out of harm’s way and reclaim flood plain acreage to capture and store floodwater,” Mastrangelo said.

Deputy Freeholder Director David Scapicchio said by helping towns to permanently remove flood-affected dwellings, they are providing the most cost effective and lasting mitigation for these flood-weary communities.

“It also helps buffer adjacent homes and businesses from floods, lowers municipal costs for services such as emergency response and debris removal, and allows homeowners to escape the expensive and destructive cycle of repetitive flooding,” said Scapicchio, a freeholder liaison to the program.

Freeholder John Cesaro said the flood mitigation program works with willing homeowners only, with all grants going directly to the municipality, which in turn purchases and deed-restricts the land as public open space in perpetuity.

“The county has closed on 46 properties, with another 73 applications in eight municipalities in process,” Cesaro, a freeholder liaison to the program, said.

Jennifer McCulloch, coordinator of the program, said many demolitions and post-preservation park plans have been completed.

McCulloch said the program has encumbered $17.3 million for acquisitions. She also noted Morris County communities have received more than $29 million in matching federal and state grants.

Additional information about the county’s flood mitigation program is available online, or by calling the Morris County Department of Planning and Public Works at 973-829-8120.