State flood recovery program announces buyouts in South River

By VASHTI HARRIS
Staff Writer

SOUTH RIVER — Representatives of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Blue Acres Program recently announced a second round of property buyouts for South River.

Through the DEP’s superstorm Sandy Blue Acres Buyout Program (BABP), the state has committed to spending $300 million in federal Sandy Recovery Funding to give homeowners still suffering from the 2012 storm the option to sell storm-damaged homes in flood-prone areas.

In South River, 62 homes have already been bought out through BABP. Roughly 76 homeowners are eligible for the second round of buyouts, according to Frederick C. Carr, South River’s borough administrator.

Once a house is purchased it will be demolished and the land permanently preserved as open space, accessible to the public, for recreation or conservation, according to an document from the DEP on the BABP.

“So far, 56 houses have been demolished and six are waiting to be demolished [in South River],” Carr said.

When asked if the South River Borough currently builds new homes higher to reduce the risk of flood damage, Carr said, “Yes, we participate in the Community Rating System, which requires us to build houses to a higher regulatory standard; in South River that is 16 feet above sea level.”

“I think it’s allowed people to move out of the flood zones and move away from danger. Providing residents with this opportunity is the right thing to do,” Carr said.

Funding for these buyouts is provided by the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program; the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program; the Blue Acres fund; and the State Land Acquisition (Urban) fund. DEP will continue to submit buyout applications to the federal government for additional properties on a rolling basis, according to the DEP.

DEP evaluates neighborhoods based on several criteria in order to determine if a community qualifies for BABP. Some of the criteria include: flood damage from Sandy or repeated flood damage from previous storms; willing sellers; support from the local government; clusters of homes, or whole neighborhoods, that have experienced flood damage; and cost-effectiveness of the buyout in accordance to federal guidelines, according to the DEP.

To date, buyouts in Middlesex County have occurred or are currently in the process in East Brunswick, Old Bridge and Woodbridge, as well as in Newark in Essex County.

For more information, visit www.state.nj.us/dep/greenacres and click on Blue Acres/Floodplain Buyouts and follow the instructions.

To find out if a house is located in a flood zone, visit www.southrivernj.org and click on the “Important Flood Information” tab.

Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@gmnews.com.