New Jersey has suffered through record flooding this year. Some areas were still recovering from Hurricane Irene when they were socked again by the freak blizzard in late October. Residents in some areas say they still hadn’t fully rebuilt from previous storms. Those New Jerseyans who live in flood-prone areas could be getting some relief.

A bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats Connie Wagner, Vincent Prieto, Craig Coughlin and Valerie Vainieri Huttle is designed to help provide towns with a long-term solution to ward off future flooding problems. Under the legislation, would be allowed to establish municipal open space trust funds specifically for the purchase of flood-prone properties. In order to establish such a fund, local governing bodies would have to seek voter approval for an annual levy at a rate deemed appropriate.

\Wagner says, “With record weather events increasing, what might have been a viable property years ago, isn’t necessarily the case now due to development, infrastructure and changing weather patterns. It’s time to look at the bigger picture and figure out how we can address this problem moving forward.”

Under current law, municipalities are authorized to establish “Municipal Open Space, Recreation, and Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Funds.” This bill would amend the name of these municipal open space trust funds to add “Floodplain Protection.” In doing so, the measure would expand this authorization to specifically include “Blue Acres projects,” which are any projects acquired for recreation or conservation purposes on land that has been damaged by, or may be prone to incurring damage caused by, storms or storm-related flooding, or that may buffer or protect other lands from such damage. The funds would be allowed to be used for the demolition of structures or the removal of debris from such properties and the restoration of those lands to a natural state or to a state useful for recreation and conservation purposes.

“This measure would put residents in the driver’s seat to decide how they want to handle flooding issues in their town,” says Prieto. “For certain properties that consistently flood, allowing the municipality to buy up that property might be the best option. This will provide towns with the funding mechanism to do that, should voters give it the okay.”

Coughlin explains, “Middlesex County, like many parts of the state, has been struggling to deal with flood-prone properties for years. It’s time we give towns and residents the tools to help address this problem based on their unique needs.”

“Over the last few years, a great deal of our state has incurred devastating damage from severe flooding events,” says Vainieri Huttle. “Residents need more than a band aid. They need a long-term solution to help avoid flood-related damage altogether.”