NJDEP Proposes Weakening on Flood Hazard Rules
New Jersey’s Flood Hazard Control Act rules have two purposes. First, the rules are supposed to reduce the threat to the public safety and health from flooding by maintaining the land adjacent to water’s ability to absorb flooding. Second, the rules are supposed to restore the water quality to New Jersey’s streams. The rules do this in large part by creating buffers along of New Jersey’s waters. Against this backdrop are two very important facts. First, NJ is currently second in the country in claims against the Federal Flood Insurance Program. Second, ninety percent of New Jersey’s waters do not meet the designated water quality standards.
On June 2nd the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection released its proposed amendments to these rules. Our review of these rules demonstrate a clear misunderstanding by the Department of its obligations to New Jersey’s citizens and the environment. The Department’s proposal focuses on reducing protections and making it easier to infringe on the vital buffers. The Department does this by increasing the amount of impacts allowed to the riparian buffer, reducing the amount and triggers for mitigation for impacts to the buffers. They are also making it easier to obtain “hardship” exceptions to the required protections.
The Watershed is working is other environmental organizations to fully review the rules and provide comments to the Department. Comments are due on July 31st and it is our hope that the Department withdraws these rules and starts over again with a proposal that lives up the Department’s obligations.