The following is the oral testimony given by Andrew Banff on behalf of NJAFM presented at the first NJDCA hearing at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, Galloway, New Jersey on the Second $1.46 Billion Action Plan, February 11, 2014.
Good evening. I am Andrew T. Banff representing the New Jersey Association for Floodplain Management (NJAFM); I am a member of the organization’s Legislative Committee. I am a professional engineer and certified floodplain manager. In addition to this oral testimony, NJAFM will be submitting written testimony by email.
NJAFM – who we are
The New Jersey Association for Floodplain Management is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization of 315 members, incorporated in 2005 and dedicated to reducing loss of life, mitigating property damage and promoting sound floodplain management. NJAFM is a chapter of the national 15,000 member Association of State Floodplain Managers. NJAFM is THE flood resource for the State of New Jersey, having direct input into education, policy, practices and recognition of the 11 Presidential Disaster Declarations in New Jersey in the past nine (9) years. Our Certified Floodplain Manager program recognizes professionals that concentrate on making New Jersey safer, more resilient and economically sustainable into the future.
We agree with certain aspects of the Plan:
1. There is not one solution to flood risk. As the plan states, the state and communities must use a host of non-structural and structural tools;
2. The State is progressing with voluntary buyout programs in the Sandy effected area and in Passaic River Basin as was the strong recommendation of the Passaic River Basin Flood Advisory Commission;
3. We commend the administration in supporting Cumberland County buyouts as a mitigation strategy in this most floodprone area;
4. The State has engaged six universities to look at repetitive loss areas and risk reduction strategies. This is very important and NJAFM would like to follow the progress as it evolves;
5. We are supportive of the positive mentions in the Plan on needed attention to critical facilities including first responder’s bases and water and wastewater facilities;
6. NJAFM is in support of the Plan’s comments in moving electrical and mechanical equipment to higher elevation – this is an important retrofit technique;
7. The plan states that there is an unmet need for regional planning support. NJAFM agrees with the Plan. We also agree with the plan on prioritizing projects that benefit more than a single community;
8. NJAFM supports the Plan’s inclusion of Nature-Based Solutions, especially related to flood volume. The state stormwater management rules must be revised accordingly. NJAFM believes that the restoration of purchased floodprone land has multiple benefits and is the needed next step in restoring certain floodprone lands.
We find absent or disagree with certain aspects of the Plan:
1. The State needs to involve more subject matter experts such as the NJAFM in its policy making including this Plan; we’ve been addressing flood issues for ten years and members have served several Governor’s Administrations. We are a resource for the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs;
2. Plan says that it will use risk assessment in allocating funding but this is not developed in the Plan. We question when we will have input into that process;
3. There has been a serious lack of planning activities Post Sandy. Philanthropic and Non-Governmental Organizations have done their best to fill that gap but CDBG dedicated funding is key;
4. There must be a specific mention in the Plan of the possibility of funding municipal entry in Community Rating System, that addresses public and building safety and rewards better practices with flood insurance discounts;
5. There are many mentions in the Plan about resiliency but seemingly limited applicability in the plan;
6. Sea level rise is happening and is likely to accelerate. The Plan needs to incorporate this fact in all rebuilding decisions, regardless of, and I quote the Plan “cost-effective and reasonably practical” decisions. We must start to use factor-of-safety in design as does the Structural Engineering profession;
7. Voluntary buyouts must be available to all high risk/severe repetitive loss areas, even ones that produce tourism revenue, as looking to future, the economy is stronger with sustainability;
8. We need the state and NJ Department of Community Affairs to work with us to train local officials in natural hazard risk, specifically with the building code respect to the NFIP. In anticipation of future events, we must have mutual aid program for local floodplain managers and construction officials to respond to impacted communities post disaster;
9. Important to the Post Sandy rebuilding, we need the NJDEP Flood Rule to be consistent with the National Flood Insurance Program. The lack of consistency will cost homeowners;
10. Finally, countywide Hazard Mitigation Plans need more detailed mitigation projects with Benefit-Cost Analysis to maximize project eligibility when disaster funding becomes available in the future.
For questions on NJAFM’s testimony, please contact John A. Miller, NJAFM Legislative Committee Chair at jmiller@princetonhydro or on his cell: 609-203-8935.