Would Address Shortcomings In Law Requiring Decades-Old Mapping To Be Used in Review of New Milford Development Project
TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Bob Gordon (D-Bergen/Passaic) that would require the state to update its flood maps more frequently – in order to protect the public from flooding and to facilitate smarter development – was approved today by a Senate committee.
“In BergenCounty, we have seen areas devastated by flooding, which was caused by excessive development near local waterways. Outdated flood maps only contribute to the problem,” said Senator Gordon, D-Bergen and Passaic. “We need to make sure that our flood maps are up-to-date so that local officials, homeowners and business owners have the best information available about the changing flood risks in the area. That means ensuring that state mapping is updated on a more frequent basis and is consistent with federal information.”
Senator Gordon introduced the bill after learning that decades-old flood maps maintained by the state were required to be used in the review process of a proposed development project in New Milford, even though FEMA had more up-to-date mapping. The use of the Department of Environmental Protection’s map, developed in 1980, created concern from residents that the proposed development project could be built in a flood-prone area. At the time, the most recent FEMA maps were developed in 2005 but under state rules, could not be used in determining flood elevations if a state map existed, according to reports. The bill is intended to provide more accurate data for use by local officials when considering proposed projects – and by potential homeowners and developers when considering building on or purchasing land – in certain areas that may be flood-prone.
The bill (S-308) would amend the “Flood Hazard Area Control Act” to require the Department of Environmental Protection to update its delineations of flood hazard areas at least once every 15 years. It would also require the DEP to incorporate any new flood delineations adopted by FEMA, as long they are at least as protective as the DEP’s delineation. Finally, the bill would allow for a more recent FEMA delineation to be used by DEP, provided that the FEMA delineation is at least as protective as the department’s delineation.
“The severe losses caused by flooding over the years in Bergen County, and elsewhere in the state after Sandy, have taken a tremendous financial and emotional toll on our residents. We have to build smarter and make sure that development is not taking place in areas that will create additional flood problems down the road,” said Senator Gordon. “Using the most current flood zone information available will better protect our residents and better ensure the stability of our local infrastructure.”
The bill was approved by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. It now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for consideration.