Home > Uncategorized > In Wake Of Repeated Catastrophic Flooding, Governor Murphy And NJ Legislators Urged To Close Loopholes And Strengthen Flood Protections

In Wake Of Repeated Catastrophic Flooding, Governor Murphy And NJ Legislators Urged To Close Loopholes And Strengthen Flood Protections

After the dust settled on Hurricane Katrina’s deadly devastation of New Orleans, the news media disclosed the fact that the levees failed due, in part, to the fact that they were designed and constructed to meet lax standards by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

As a result of the public outrage that ensued, the USACoE levee standards were strengthened and upgraded to protect against a Category 3 storm.

That is not adequate, but it improved protections over the status quo.

We have a very similar situation now unfolding in the deadly Hurricane Ida flooding, which was exacerbated by historic failures of NJ’s flood protections laws and DEP regulations.

As a result of these flaws:

  • thousands of people live in dangerous flood hazard areas and don’t know it.
  • people are unknowingly buying homes in hazardous locations and putting their families and financial futures at risk.
  • billions of dollars of property located in dangerous flood hazard areas is not insured.
  • developers are being allowed to build in hazardous locations and pass the costs on to the public.
  • we are wasting billions of dollars on fatally flawed “resilience” projects that are “antiquated” and designed to fail because they are designed to meet “obsolete” DEP regulatory standards that do not reflect climate science.

The current DEP regulations do not consider climate change impacts and risks.

Gov. Murphy’s promised DEP climate regulations have been stalled for 4 years, despite the fact that DEP has “emergency rulemaking” powers and could adopt regulations immediately.

In response to this inaction, I fired off this request to legislators:

Dear Chairman Smith and Senators:

In light of the most recent round of catastrophic flooding, I strongly urge you to hold oversight hearings and enact legislation to address the following “significant deficiencies” in current NJ law and regulation:

1. Amend the following statutory law to eliminate the 100 year design flood and address climate science and projected storm intensity:

58:16A-55.2. Structure or alteration within area subject to inundation by 100 year design flood of nondelineated stream; approval; conditions 

2. Amend the following statutory law to eliminate the “right to rebuild”:

58:16A-55.1. Repair or rebuilding of lawful preexisting structure within flood hazard area

3. Amend the following statutory law to eliminate preference for private property rights over public safety and the public interests: (Flood Hazard Area Control Act):

“No such approval by the department shall impair or affect any property rights otherwise existing which might be invaded by the construction or maintenance of any such structure or alteration. “

4. Conduct oversight of DEP regulations to reform, at a minimum, the above regulatory provisions that implement the above statutory flaws and the following “significant deficiencies” identified by FEMA:

“To highlight, FEMA finds that the abandonment of the nonstructural stormwater management in design and the absence of restrictions in the increase in runoff volume post-development to be significant deficiencies.

FEMA is also concerned that the proposed rule does not consider future conditions of increasingly intense precipitation that is expected with climate change. 

The use of the term Green Infrastructure will not offset the proposed changes to the nonstructural stormwater management strategies and the multiple missed opportunities to reduce riverine and urban flooding impacts.”

I appreciate your prompt and favorable consideration of this request.

I am available to respond to any questions you may have.


Bill Wolfe

We’ll keep you posted on the response by Legislators – but I’m not holding my breath.

Ditto media coverage by NJ news media, especially NJ Spotlight.

And I didn’t even mention the need for a more aggressive and legislative mandate for “strategic retreat”.

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