FLOOD DEFENSE NEW JERSEY APPLAUDS NEW STORMWATER RULES, RECOMMENDS STORMWATER UTILITIES
Trenton – Flood Defense New Jersey, a coalition of state and local nonprofit organizations working to protect communities from damaging floods and harmful stormwater pollution, supports the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) new regulation that establishes green infrastructure as the preferred and predominant method for municipalities to manage stormwater. Green infrastructure is an approach to stormwater management that mimics the natural water cycle and uses natural solutions to absorb runoff like a sponge and filter out pollutants. There are economic benefits too; every dollar spent on green infrastructure can realize between $7 to $27 dollars in ancillary benefits including improved health outcomes and increased property values.
“This new regulation comes at a perfect time. The New Jersey DEP has been sounding the alarm about the harmful effects of climate change including increased flooding, and green infrastructure is the best way to help manage polluted stormwater runoff,” said Ed Potosnak, Executive Director, New Jersey LCV. “However, municipalities are still going to need to pay to install green infrastructure projects, which is why we strongly encourage our cities and towns to establish a stormwater utility.”
Modernizing New Jersey’s water infrastructure requires at least $40 billion in investment over the next 20 years, with updates to our stormwater infrastructure costing over $16 billion of that amount. Those costs will largely be left to local governments to navigate, as the state doesn’t have the funding, and, as of now, the federal government isn’t helping.
Municipalities have a new tool they can use to pay for green infrastructure projects. Made possible by the Clean Stormwater and Flood Reduction Act signed by Governor Murphy in 2019, local governments have the ability to create stormwater utilities. A stormwater utility allows a town, county, or regional sewage authority to assess a fee based on a property’s impervious surface area and contribution to polluted stormwater. These funds also are legally dedicated and cannot be diverted to a municipality’s general fund. The assessed revenue must be spent maintaining and upgrading infrastructure to reduce pollutants into waterways and control flooding. Stormwater utilities have been implemented in 1,800 communities in 41 states and places the responsibility to pay for the remediation of flooding squarely on the shoulders of those who contribute to it the most.
“Managing and mitigating for stormwater runoff impacts has proven to be a serious societal challenge. We have polluted our waters and landscapes with the land-use decisions we have made; the harmful algal blooms experienced in Highlands lakes like Lake Hopatcong are exhibit number one,” said Julia Somers, Executive Director, New Jersey Highlands Coalition. “These new rules are a start to meeting those challenges, and stormwater utilities are the most equitable and least expensive tool we have to curb the pollution and stop the flooding.”
“Lake closures due to harmful algae blooms and more frequent flooding underscore how businesses and local economies are increasingly vulnerable to environmental disasters,” said Richard Lawton, Executive Director of the NJ Sustainable Business Council. “Since adapting to the increase in extreme weather events requires making some basic changes to how we design, build, and maintain the infrastructure of buildings, roads, and parking lots, the DEP’s updated stormwater rules will lead to increased investment in green stormwater infrastructure, making our local economies more sustainable and resilient for current and future generations.”
“The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is leading among states across the nation by explicitly prioritizing green infrastructure approaches to stormwater,” said Cortney Worrall, President and CEO, Waterfront Alliance. “When compared to grey approaches, a rain garden or bioswale provides many other benefits – from cooling our neighborhoods to improving the health and wellbeing of communities. In urban areas with rising temperatures and limited access to green spaces, these approaches are needed now more than ever.”
“These new rules demonstrate the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s commitment to improving water quality and reducing flood risk by prioritizing green infrastructure. Across the country, there are robust municipal stormwater programs that deliver compelling environmental, economic, and societal results locally,” said Peter Kasabach, Executive Director, New Jersey Future. “New Jersey’s rule change provides a national example of a statewide stormwater approach with buy-in from the environmental and development communities.”
“The Pinelands’ unique acidic environment is easily disrupted by nutrient-laden stormwater. These rules are a first step in addressing this never ending threat, but more action will be needed,” said Jaclyn Rhoads, Assistant Executive Director, Pinelands Preservation Alliance. “Thanks to NJDEP for their work, Pinelands Preservation Alliance looks forward to additional changes soon.”
Green infrastructure and stormwater utilities are the most cost-effective and equitable way to protect our cities, cherished lakes, bays, and reservoirs. For more information about stormwater utilities, visit the Flood Defense New Jersey Websites:
Here are the links: