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(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Connie Wagner, Tim Eustace and John Wisniewski creating a $100 million public bond referendum to fund the purchase of flood-prone properties throughout New Jersey was advanced by an Assembly panel on Monday.
"The lingering damage from Sandy is an all-too-real reminder of the destructive power of flooding," said Wagner (D-Bergen/Passaic). "From Bergen County to Atlantic County residents have been repeatedly subject to the nightmare of trying to rebuild after severe storms. It's time we try a new approach and let the people decide if we should invest in buying up properties repeatedly prone to flooding."
The bill (A-2930), entitled the "Blue Acres Floodplain Protection Bond Act of 2012," would authorize the issuance of $100 million in state general obligation bonds, of which $85 million would be allocated for the acquisition of properties repeatedly prone to flooding through the state's Blue Acres program and $15 million of which would be allocated as grants to fund home elevation. Under the bill, only single family or two family houses that are the homeowners' primary residence would be eligible for the home elevation grants.
"In some of the areas most devastated by Sandy, many of the homes that survived the best were those that were elevated in some form," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). "This would help us use public funds in the most economical manner to stabilize and maintain communities and revitalize economic development and tourism during this unprecedented time of reconstruction and redevelopment."
"Even before Sandy, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee brought what were considered historic levels of flooding," said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex). "Given the changing landscape of our state and the increasing intensity of storms, we need to rethink our approach, particularly during the post-Sandy rebuilding phase. If approved, this funding will be a huge relief for homeowners saddled with the burden of repeated flooding and the inability sell their home because of it."
Under the state's Blue Acres Program, which is administered by the Department of Environmental Protection, properties that have been damaged by, or may be prone to incurring damage caused by storms or storm-related flooding are purchased from willing sellers. Structures on acquired property are demolished, the debris is removed, and the property is preserved for recreation and conservation purposes. Funding for Blue Acres projects has been provided in the past through three different state bond acts approved by voters.
The bill provides that the bond act is to be submitted to voters for approval at the general election to be held at least 70 days after enactment of the bill.
The measure was unanimously approved by the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.
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