Posted on April 20, 2022
84 houses at risk of flooding purchased and restored to open space
Morris County’s innovative Flood Mitigation Program reached a milestone in March, turning 10 years old and helping cities get 84 flood-prone properties that have been restored to open space.
The program, which has been operating since 2012 through the Morris County Open Space, Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust, complements state and federal programs by helping towns secure flood lots from volunteer vendors. County funds go directly to municipalities, which buy the properties from willing sellers and must maintain the land as an open public space.
“Ten years ago, our Board of Directors decided to take a portion of our taxpayer-approved open space dollars and put them toward buying flood-prone properties. Early on, the program won two environmental awards from the State of New Jersey for its innovation. It had never been done before,” said Stephen H. Shaw, a member of the Morris County Board of Commissioners and liaison with the Morris County Planning and Preservation Office, which operates the program.
Check out the video of Commissioner Shaw touring the restored property
By removing houses and restoring properties to open space, the land can better absorb flood waters and protect other nearby properties from flooding. The program also provides communities with more open space, helps constantly flooded homeowners move out, and even eases the burden on first responders who occasionally have to rescue people from their flooded buildings.
To date, the program has allocated $9.6 million to secure properties in eight towns in Morris County.
The Morris County Flood Mitigation Program helped purchase 84 properties, with towns using county funds in conjunction with other funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the program New Jersey Green Acres/Blue Acres and, in some cases, municipal contributions.
Five of the 84 properties were located in the flood-prone Midwood Road section of Lincoln Park, adjacent to the banks of the Pompton River, where a total of 20 homes have been purchased, removed and returned to natural land in recent years. On April 7, this area was again under water after heavy rains hit northern New Jersey, flooding the area and leaving many waterfront properties in Morris County inundated.
This time there were 20 fewer structures underwater along Midwood Road and the waters of the river were absorbed faster.
On average, for every dollar spent by the county on flood mitigation, there was $7 in benefits for participating cities. and the county, according to the Office of Planning and Preservation.
The flood mitigation program is structured with two core funding streams, according to program coordinator Virginia Michelin.
- The matchmaking program offers up to 25% county matchmaking on state and federal buyouts.
- The CORE program is designed to catch homes that have fallen into the financing nets of other agencies, with Morris County providing up to 75% of acquisition costs.
Grant applications are reviewed by the Municipalities County Flood Mitigation Committee on behalf of willing vendors. Each project undergoes a detailed cost-benefit analysis based on FEMA computer models.
Photos taken April 8, 2022 of three flood prone locations in Morris County following an April 7 storm.
Top right: Gardner Field, Denville, NJ
Center left: Harrison Road, Pequannock, NJ
Bottom Right: Pompton River off Shady Street, Pequannock, NJ