SOMERSET COUNTY: Freeholders announce program for flood-prone communities

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The Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders has approved a Flood Mitigation Funding Program to assist flood-prone municipalities.
Members of the Freeholder Board announced the program last Wednesday at the Lincoln Avenue ballfields in Manville, joined by Mayor Richard Onderko and other borough officials.
“Manville was one of the towns hardest hit by Hurricane Irene in 2011,” Freeholder Director Patricia Walsh said. “The Freeholder Board is committed to assisting towns that have suffered repeated losses in major storms.”
She credited Freeholder Mark Caliguire, liaison to the county Open Space Advisory Committee, for proposing the use of county open space funds to help with buyouts in flood-ravaged areas.
The Somerset County Flood Mitigation Funding Program will consider grant applications from municipalities for the acquisition of residences that have experienced severe, repetitive flooding, or sustained substantial damage of greater than 50 percent. Only acquisition projects will be considered for this program. All 21 Somerset County municipalities are eligible for the program.
According to officials, the program will be split into two parts.
The first aspect will be a match funding program by the county that will provide matching funds to municipalities in partnership with FEMA Blue Acres, up to a maximum of 25 percent of total project cost.
The FEMA and state Department of Environmental Protection Blue Acres Programs are consistent with the goals and regulations of the Garden State Preservation Trust Fund. Therefore, Somerset County will assist local governments by providing the match requirement for land acquisition projects.
The second component, known as the primary funding program, will prompt Somerset County to take the lead funding role if funds from other federal or state sources are not making their way to the impacted area.
Somerset County will consider properties outside the federal and state programs, with the requirement that the municipality provide the matching acquisition funds for projects not fully funded by this program. These matching funds may not be derived from the traditional Somerset County Open Space programs.
Grant applications may be filed throughout the year on a rolling basis. All applications are to be submitted to the Somerset County Department of Public Works, Division of Engineering. County staff will review the applications to determine eligibility and completeness.
Viable applications will be presented to the Open Space Advisory Committee, which will assess each application according to established criteria. The committee’s recommendations will be forwarded to the Board of Chosen Freeholders, who will determine grant awards.
Goals of the program include: providing natural open space areas for floodwater storage; decreasing the risk of potential loss of life to both citizens and emergency response personnel; lower relief and recovery costs for local governments; creating a buffer area that will protect inland homeowners and their property; and lower property losses after storm events.
To be eligible, a property must be located in Somerset County; must be residential (commercial, industrial, vacant or government properties are not eligible); and must have a history of repetitive loss or must have sustained substantial damage (greater than 50 percent)in a single flood event. The property owner must be a willing seller. Properties in the process of foreclosure or currently held by a bank post-foreclosure must meet the preceding criteria.
For further information about the program, contact Tom Boccino at the Somerset County Engineering Division at 908-231-7509. 