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Sprawl and Overdevelopment Make Flooding Worse

Date : Tue, 06 Sep 2011 12:52:44 -0400 For Immediate Release
August 31, 2011 Contact:Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100


*Sprawl and Overdevelopment Make Flooding Worse* As our state residents suffer the impacts of flooding from Hurricane Irene, New Jersey continues to promote development in flood prone and wetland areas.Sprawl development and increased impervious cover increase flood impacts downstream, yet DEP and State Planning Commission policies still target these areas for growth.The major areas that have flooded along the Passaic and Raritan Basins are growth areas in the State Plan where government is trying to promote and encourage growth, putting more people in harm's way.Fast growing areas in Burlington and Salem counties are seeing tremendous amounts of flooding.We are losing 50 football fields of open space to development every day and the more we develop upstream the more flooding we have downstream.We need to not only limit development but we need to development with less pavement and impervious cover.

"Nature brings the rains but man makes floods worse.Sprawl and overdevelopment turn small flood into a disaster," *said Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club*."If we want to control flooding we have to control sprawl and overdevelopment." The typical forested acre of land will soak up to three inches of water, saving more than a million gallons per acre of downstream flooding. Every time we pave over the forest, we send more waters downstream and put people in harm's way.

"We keep building in places where nature says no and then we wonder why those properties get flooded.We need to move people out of harm's way if we want to limit the impact of flooding," *said Jeff Tittel*. Changes must be made to the Coastal Area Facility Review Act (CAFRA) to better protect our coast from the overdevelopment that increases flooding.The DEP must change the impervious cover limits in CARFA and remove environmentally sensitive areas from growth areas in CAFRA.Based on existing CARFA impervious cover limits, the total build out of Ocean County could add 300,000 people.CAFRA designated centers call for high intensity growth in low lying areas that are vulnerable to storm surges like the Lacey Town Center, Tuckerton, Lakewood, and Manchester.Along the coast we have urban centers that allow for higher densities than in Manhattan Island. Christie weakened land use tools within the DEP that prevent sprawl in flood prone and wetland areas.His administration has rolled back the flood hazard rules, removing key protections like zero net fill and stream buffers. He has weakened storm water rules which would require recharging and detention of stormwater as well as buffers. Most of the stormwater control systems we have are broken or do not work, making flooding worse.Instead of improving these systems the Governor is weakening stormwater rules and vetoing legislation to finance detention basin retrofits.The DEP has proposed a waiver rule that is so vague that virtually any development project can skirt the rules of critical environmental programs. Christie has been attempting to repeal the Highlands regulations through his appointments to the Highlands Council that are pro-development.Weakening protections in the Highlands will result in more flooding in the Passaic and Raritan River Basins as the headwaters in the Highlands lose the capacity to store water as a result with increased development and impervious cover. The Governor has delayed implementation of the Water Quality Management Planning (WQMP) rules by over 16 months and has weakened those plans to allow for more development in environmentally sensitive and flood prone areas.16,000 environmentally sensitive acres in Ocean County will receive sewer service under the Governor's plan, adding 125,000 people in environmentally sensitive areas and more impervious cover to the Barnegat Bay watershed.The delay and roll backs in the WQMP rules impact flood prone areas along the Passaic and Raritan Rivers as well by expanding sewer service to those areas, allowing for more development and creating more flooding.

"Christie's attack on the environment and weakening regulation will mean more flooding for the people on the Passaic River and other parts of New Jersey," *Tittel said.* "If we keep weakening environmental protections we will have to buy out more and more homes because the more we allow development in the wrong places the more flooding gets worse and the more housing we will have to buy." Curbing overdevelopment and sprawl through effective land use planning is critical to prevent this problem from worsening in the future.New Jersye should:


 * *Eliminate the Loophole for Redevelopment* Currently, redevelopment projects are exempt from New Jersey's storm water and flood hazard rules.As we redevelop a state with as much development as New Jersey, we must not miss our one chance to fix the problems of the past.Unless we eliminate this loophole and allow for retrofitting of storm water systems and limiting impervious cover on these sites, no matter what else we may do, flooding will continue to get worse.

 * *Stop the Rollback of Critical Environmental Regulations* The Governor is weakening rules on stormwater, flood hazard areas, stream buffers, and the Highlands and the DEP has just proposed a waiver rule that would exempt numerous projects from Department regulation.These policies must be stopped as their implementation only results in more flooding.

 * *Update Maps of Flood Hazard Areas* Many of the maps are thirty years old and some parts of the state do not have maps.Many more people are living in flood prone areas because these maps are so out of date.Without knowledge of where these areas are, we are allowing more development and putting more people in harm's way.The new maps should take into consideration increased flooding and sea level rise due to global warming.

 * *Eliminate Loopholes that Destroy Headwaters of Sensitive Streams* Most prevalent is the loophole where the state does not have jurisdiction to protect stream drainages smaller than 50 acres.However, it is just these drainage areas that are the most sensitive and crucial to protecting water quality.Once you lose the high quality waters at the headwaters, the rest of the stream suffers.

 * *Develop Impervious Cover Limits* In order to address the chronic flooding that has occurred in New Jersey, the state needs to develop impervious cover limits in flood-prone watersheds.Impervious cover includes buildings, pavement, and lawns, which do not absorb storm water.

 * *Limit Development in Flood Plains* Building in flood plains creates more flooding and puts more people's lives and properties at risk.The increase in impervious cover eliminates recharge areas and therefore stricter limits on new development in flood plains should be immediately imposed.There should be zero net fill and no new structures in flood plains.

 * *Implement Category One Anti-degradation Requirements* These requirements should be incorporated into the new rules.The same regulations for crossing streams and allowing for new development should not apply to the state's most sensitive environmental areas where stronger standards are warranted.The outstanding basin water designation should be strengthened to be the equivalent of Category One protection waters in New Jersey and then adopted for the Delaware River basin above Trenton and its tributaries.

 * *Flood Mitigation* Develop basin-wide flood mitigation. Plan to help lessen the impact of flooding on already existing developed neighborhoods.Develop non-structural mechanisms to help diminish the impact of flooding on these communities.

 * *Regional Planning* We cannot manage our water without managing our land.We need to do a better job of preventing development from creating more floods.Currently there is no regional planning entity for the Delaware River Basin.We believe the Delaware River Basin Commission should have land use powers.We also believe that the four-state region along the basin needs to develop strong regional planning to help prevent overdevelopment from causing more flooding.

"There have been dozens of studies on flooding on the Passaic, Raritan, and Delaware Rivers and the only thing we get out of them is if we use them to raise our furniture during a flood event because they sit on shelves and help no one," *said Jeff Tittel*.

"Without real growth management protecting our countryside and open spaces from overdevelopment, New Jersey will always be underwater no matter what we do.The more we build upstream the more downstream areas will be underwater.We have seen decades worth of studies and no action.We need to stop talking and actually start getting things done when it comes to overdevelopment and sprawl to protect the people of New Jersey from flooding.Without real planning and growth management we will have to put our houses on platoons," *said Jeff Tittel*.

Kate Millsaps
Program Assistant
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
Received on 2011-09-06 09:52:44

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