Government. Phil MurphyNG Advance Media has learned that the department’s management is preparing to implement emergency rules for new construction in flood-prone areas to help strengthen the state as officials expect storms to become more frequent and volatile due to climate change.
Officials say the rules – which are expected to be drawn up later this month – will modernize the way the state’s Department of Environmental Protection regulates development in flood areas, using current and future rainfall rates instead of figures now two decades old. The rules will also update how rainwater is managed.
The first would significantly increase the areas listed as flood zones to help reduce places where flooding is causing damage, according to environmentalists who praised the move as an important step.
But the rules could face opposition from developers, business groups and some municipalities over concerns about cost and the impact on construction projects.
Specifically, DEP will raise design flood heights by two feet in non-tidal—or inland—flood areas, according to a presentation the agency gave to ecologists and other groups last week, a copy of which was obtained by NJ Advance Media.
“The science shows that areas that were once not flooded at all are now flooding, and areas that were sometimes flooded are now frequently flooded,” said David Pringle of EmpowerNJ, a coalition of environmental groups. “We need the rules to reflect the latest science to better protect people and property.”
Amy Goldsmith, director of the state’s Clean Water Action, added, “They’re basically trying to create a safety zone. They’re not saying don’t build. But they’re telling you the risk is greater.”
DEP will also require the use of new rainfall forecasts when calculating design flood height and mandate the stormwater runoff calculation not only for today’s storms but for future storms, according to the presentation.
Officials say this is necessary because climate change has caused more precipitation, and the state’s current rules are based on rainfall data only up to 1999. It does not take into account increases due to climate change or future conditions.
According to the presentation, the rules do not apply to current developments but only to future development and redevelopment projects.
DEP spokeswoman Karen Shinsek said in a statement that the rules continue the “Murphy Administration’s commitment to taking proactive measures to protect New Jersey residents, their properties, and our communities from the continuing imminent threat of flooding resulting from the increased frequency and intensity of climate-sensitive precipitation.”
Shinske added that this will help guide development and redevelopment across the state, specifically in areas still recovering from Tropical Storm Ida last September and may be in line with federal funding.
“As evidenced by the intense statewide rainfall this past summer, which culminated in the devastation wrought by the remnants of Tropical Storm Ida, the state’s reliance on data looking back from 1999 is no longer sufficient to ensure continued protection of our homes, communities, economies and people,” he said. Shinsuke.
New Jersey has experienced major flooding in 10 of the past 21 years, according to the agency. Recently, Ida dropped 10 inches of rain in parts of Essex, Hunterdon, Middlesex and Union counties, causing severe flash flooding, damaging homes across the state, and 30 deaths.
By the end of this century, the Department of Environmental Protection said, severe storms are expected 200% to 500% more often and with greater intensity.
“While we have to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a certain amount of global warming is already there,” said Pringle, the environmental expert. “As we deal with emissions, we also have to deal with severe weather. We need to do a better job of keeping people out of harm’s way.”
Goldsmith warned that “Idas, Irenes, and Floyds will come faster, more angry and destructive.”
“We need people to build better, higher, and go backwards in unprecedented ways,” said Clean Water Action’s director.
The praise from environmentalists comes after Murphy faced some criticism for his handling of climate change in New Jersey.
In April, EmpowerNJ said in a report that New Jersey risks losing Murphy’s climate-change goals if the governor’s own administration does not stop the fossil fuel projects it has approved and act more quickly to install regulations. The group also has Taking the Murphy Department to court To push for more action on climate change.
“We are still waiting for the rules on emissions,” Goldsmith said.
“But this is important,” she said of the new rules. “Good job.”
Michael Sierra, executive director of the New Jersey Association of Municipalities, said his organization had not been briefed about the changes, but noted that some groups who were briefed were “concerned.”
“We will review the proposal as quickly as possible,” Serra said, without elaborating.
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