More than a dozen business groups are calling on Governor Phil Murphy to stop his administration from enacting emergency rules for new construction in some flood-prone areas of New Jersey, saying they could delay or cancel thousands of development projects and address the issue. “Wrong solution” on floods.
NJ Advance Media reported last week that the state Department of Environmental Protection is preparing to implement the rules eight months after Tropical Storm Ida to help strengthen the state’s inland flood zones as storms are expected to occur more frequently. and with greater intensity due to climate change.
Both the DEP and environmentalists have said this will help drive development across New Jersey, especially in places still recovering from Ida, by increasing the areas included in flood zones. This, they say, will help protect both residents and property.
But the New Jersey Business and Industry Association and 18 other business groups wrote in a June 3 letter to Murphy that the changes would “negatively impact countless much needed development and infrastructure projects that are in the planning stages or have already been designed and engineered at high cost for both the private and public sectors “.
The groups estimate that about 5% to 10% of the state’s building area – about 200,000 to 400,000 acres – will be affected by the rules.
In the letter, the groups contest the DEP’s claim that there is “immediate danger” and argue that while the flood maps need to be updated, Ida showed that the real problem is inadequate rainwater facilities.
“This emergency rule is addressing the wrong problem with the wrong solution,” they wrote.
Murphy’s spokesman Bailey Lawrence said Wednesday that as climate change intensifies, floods in New Jersey “will continue to increase in frequency and severity.”
“Extreme weather events such as tropical storm Ida, which claimed the lives of 30 New Jersey residents, are proof that we need to proactively build resilience across the state,” Lawrence said in a statement. “The Murphy Administration will continue to respond to the escalating climate crisis with evidence-backed solutions and investments that protect New Jersey citizens from injury while safeguarding homes and businesses from property damage.”
Ida dropped 10 inches of rain in hours in parts of Essex, Hunterdon, Middlesex and Union counties last September, causing severe flash flooding, damage to homes across the state and 30 deaths.
The DEP said the rules will change the way it regulates development in areas affected by inland flooding caused by stormwater runoff, as seen during the IDA, as opposed to tidal flooding. The rules will use current and future rainfall rates instead of figures they now have two decades ago and will update how stormwater runoff should be managed.
David Pringle of EmpowerNJ, a coalition of environmental groups, said that “science is showing that areas that did not flood at all are now flooding and areas that used to flood occasionally are now flooding more frequently.”
“We need the rules to reflect the latest science to better protect people and property,” Pringle told NJ Advance Media last week.
Specifically, the DEP will increase project flood rates by two feet in non-tidal areas – or inland – according to the agency’s presentation.
The agency will also require the use of new rainfall projections when calculating project flood elevation and mandatory stormwater runoff not only for today’s storms but for future storms as well, according to the presentation.
This, officials say, is necessary because climate change has caused increased rainfall and the state’s current rules are based on rainfall data only up to 1999. They do not take into account increases due to climate change or future conditions.
The rules do not apply to existing developments but only to future development and redevelopment projects, according to the presentation.
Our journalism needs your support. Please sign up today at NJ.com.