Flood Officials Seek to Limit Development in Northern N.J.

August 28, 2007

With the cost of federally subsidized flood insurance rising, officials want some northern New Jersey towns to restrict development in flood-prone areas.

To reach this goal, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has developed model ordinances for the towns to adopt, hoping that will help ease chronic flooding problems across the region.

Numerous homes and businesses were built decades ago in areas of northern New Jersey that repeatedly flood, and new development continues to be proposed for flood plains in the region. These problems are aggravated when towns upstream of the flood-prone communities approve development on tracts near streams that often overflow their banks during heavy downpours.

And while major developments in headwaters communities such as Ringwood and West Milford are restricted by the 2004 state Highlands Act, that law does not affect smaller projects that can contribute to flooding downstream or be affected by local flooding.

Once the new ordinances — or a version of them — are adopted by the towns, property owners and developers who violate the rules could face fines of up to $2,000 for each violation and 90 days in jail, as well as increased flood insurance payments.

“FEMA’s goal is to get these municipalities to do these improvements, and ultimately you reduce flood damages,” John Moyle, manager of the state Department of Environmental Protection’s flood-control program, told The Record of Bergen County for Sunday’s editions.

The DEP oversees a county-by-county update of FEMA-approved flood area maps and municipal flood damage prevention ordinances. Bergen County was addressed last year, while this year’s focus is on Passaic County, with Morris County’s review scheduled for 2009.

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