Morris County’s innovative flood mitigation program has purchased its 80th flood-prone property, using a voter-approved county preservation trust fund to obtain flood-threatened homes and permanently restore the properties to open space.
The program, which has operated since 2012 through the Morris County Open Space, Farmland, and Historic Preservation Trust, supplements state and federal flood buyouts by helping towns secure flood-prone properties from willing sellers. It is designed to purchase chronically flooded properties and return the land to natural use.
On average, for every $1 spent by the county of flood mitigation, there have been $7 in benefits to the participating towns and county
“Through this first-of-its-kind county program in New Jersey, all the county funds go directly to the municipalities, which purchase the properties from willing sellers and must maintain the land as public open space from that point on. Everyone benefits because it helps to restore these properties to open space, which helps to absorb flood waters and protect other properties from flooding,” said Stephen Shaw, Director of the Morris County Board of County Commissioners and the board’s liaison on preservation issues.
The program’s 80th purchase was formalized with a closing. It involved a Lincoln Park property impacted by the Pompton River. With the addition of another Lincoln Park property purchased last fall, homes in the borough have received the most county grants by far under the program with 28 properties purchased. Areas of Lincoln Park have long been subject to chronic Pompton River flooding,
The combined purchase of both properties was $150,000. The homes will be demolished, allowing the land to revert to open space.
To date, the program has allocated $8.9 million to obtain properties in seven Morris County towns, including Boonton, Denville, Long Hill, Morristown, Parsippany, Pequannock and Riverdale. Morris County established the Flood Mitigation Program in 2012, following the devastation caused by Hurricane Irene, to deal with repetitive flooding issues. It is funded by the county’s open space tax.
According to Virginia Michelin, coordinator of the county Flood Mitigation Program, the program is structured with two basic funding tracks:
- The Match Program offers up to a 25 percent county match to state and federal buyouts.
- The CORE Program is designed to catch homes that have fallen through other agency’s funding nets, with Morris County providing up to 75 percent of the acquisition cost.
The two recent purchases occurred through the CORE Program.
Grant applications are considered by the county Flood Mitigation Committee from municipalities on behalf of willing sellers. Every project is subject to a detailed benefit-cost analysis based on FEMA computer models.