New Jersey county creates a unique public-private initiative to boost communities’ long-term environmental and economic resilience

On April 6, 2021 in New Jersey, a coalition of local Middlesex County leaders and technical experts announced the launch of the Resilient NJ: Raritan River and Bay Communities initiative.

This joint effort is designed to and will identify and implement flood risk reduction strategies for the Raritan River and Bay region to improve long-term environmental and economic resilience, and is led by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) in partnership with Middlesex County, and is supported by Arcadis. It includes the municipalities of Carteret, Old Bridge, Perth Amboy, Sayreville, South Amboy, South River, and Woodbridge.

Anyone who lives or works in New Jersey has been, or knows someone who has been, affected by flooding. The people familiar with this area understand its strengths, limitations, and needs and are uniquely capable of helping identify what neighborhoods and streets are most susceptible to flooding. We are eager for input to make sure this plan effectively and impactfully protects these communities,” said Carly Foster, project manager for Arcadis.

To ensure an equitable approach to resiliency, the project team is seeking input, information, and recommendations from local residents regarding their own experiences with flooding and storm events.

Specifically, the Resilient NJ: Raritan River and Bay Communities initiative will work to address flooding from coastal storms, high tides, heavy precipitation, and overflowing riverbanks. Community engagement is critical to ensure an impactful outcome.

Many local leaders voiced their support:

We are excited to work with municipal and county leaders in the Resilient NJ regions to identify locally-driven regional solutions to current and future flooding,” said New Jersey Chief Resilience Officer Dave Rosenblatt. “Strengthening New Jersey against today’s climate threats is an important part of our long-term approach to climate resilience and we applaud these leaders for their vision and initiative.

While the County has strengthened its flood resilience since Hurricane Sandy, the partnering municipalities are still vulnerable to increased flood risk from increasingly intense storm events, sea-level rise, and climate change,” said Middlesex County Commissioner Director Ronald G. Rios.

The announcement today is symbolic of the County’s continued commitment towards future-forward projects that build a strong foundation for our communities to thrive for generations to come. We’re eager to hear from constituents who live and work in the region to participate in this long-term resiliency plan to ensure that it is reflective of their social, economic, and physical priorities,” he added.

The Raritan Bay watershed and surrounding bodies of water, including the Arthur Kill here in Carteret are essential for commerce, recreation, and transportation. We must protect the health of these vital waterways and each municipality has a responsibility to promote the important role they play in our everyday lives,” said Mayor Daniel J. Reiman, Borough of Carteret.

The Old Bridge Township Mayor and Council offer full support to the HUD-sponsored Resilient NJ – Raritan River and Bay Communities initiative administered by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. We fully endorse Resilient NJ’s mission to create a multi-municipal watershed-based plan for flood risk prevention, resiliency, and restoration. Although Old Bridge was fortunate to have minimal impacts during Superstorm Sandy, we recognize that Old Bridge has a responsibility and interest in identifying potential risks associated with flooding and acknowledges the importance of preparing an action plan to effectively address any such future events,” said Mayor Owen Henry, Old Bridge Township.

Being part of Resilient NJ will identify ways our city can mitigate vulnerabilities that will assure our longevity in climate changes. I want to thank NJ DEP, Middlesex County Commissioners, and fellow coalition members in this collective effort that will chart the course to advance our preparedness to evolving environmental conditions,” said Mayor Helmin Caba, City of Perth Amboy.

Sayreville is located along the Raritan River and has a history of regular flooding associated with storm surges. Hurricane Sandy, for example, caused substantial damage to homes and forced the evacuation and rescue of dozens of residents. As a community that has experienced much loss due to flooding, we are pleased to take part in the Resilient NJ: Raritan River and Bay Communities initiative which will help us ensure long-term environmental and economic resiliency for generations to come,” said Mayor Victoria Kilpatrick, Borough of Sayreville.

As a coastal community South Amboy is well familiar with the detrimental impact of flooding and coastal storms. This is a very important initiative and I encourage all of our residents to take an active part in support of this project. Flood resiliency planning is a critical element of our waterfront development projects and will help us to preserve our existing bayfront for generations to come,” said Mayor Fred A. Henry, City of South Amboy.

South River is excited to share in a partnership with Resilient NJ and Middlesex County in this project to help revitalize the downtown of the borough and continue on with the goal to reduce the flooding problems in the borough,” said Arthur Londensky, South River Borough Administrator.

As we have experienced in recent years, strong storms are becoming more frequent and intense, and it does not take a full-scale hurricane to cause serious flooding or damage. There are over 3,000 acres of regulatory floodplains within Woodbridge Township and these areas encapsulate both riverine and coastal environments. While these unique geographic locations provide expansive benefits for ecological resources and passive recreational opportunities, they also present heightened risk during storm events that we must plan for now to best ensure safety in the future. Addressing these flood threats must be taken seriously and mitigation will not be effective, sustainable, or equitable without examining hazards across municipal boundaries. We look forward to partnering with the Resilient NJ: Raritan River and Bay Communities project as we embark on a collaborative approach to address flood risk and resilience through a regional initiative,” said Mayor John E. McCormac, Woodbridge Township.

The Resilient NJ: Raritan River and Bay Communities project is expected to be completed in May of 2022. The project will be conducted in waves, in order to account for public input at every point in its development.

Photo (by Ekem at English Wikipedia) shows the Raritan River flooding the town of Bound Brook during a Spring Nor’easter on April 16, 2007.

See Resilient Raritan River and Bay website.

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