- Legislative Priority: Integrate climate change resiliency into the State Hazard Mitigation Plan to combat the severity of flooding and sea level rise in a changing world.
- Budget Priority: Create a $10 million grant, a low-interest loan program for municipalities to explore local financing options for public infrastructure projects that prioritize natural solutions such as green infrastructure.
Why is this on New Jersey LCV’s Common Agenda?
The State Hazard Mitigation Plan (HMP) captures historic disaster experiences and reflects the natural and human-caused hazards New Jersey faces, based on current science and research. The State HMP outlines strategies to reduce risks from hazards and serves as the basis for prioritizing future project funding, however, it lacks an evaluation of what future hazards could emerge as the state, more specifically low-wealth communities, suffer and become increasingly more at risk from the worsening impacts of the climate crisis.
All states are required to have a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)-approved hazard mitigation plan to be eligible for disaster recovery assistance and mitigation funding. The State HMP must be updated and submitted to FEMA for approval at least once every three years in order to maintain eligibility for FEMA grant programs. The most recent State HMP was implemented in 2019 and is due to be reassessed in 2022.
New Jersey has already experienced the effects of climate change through more mild winters and hotter summers, more intense rainfall that has increased flooding along inland waterways, and sea-level rise on the coast. The events have led to costly damage to public and private property, threatened public health and safety, and even claimed lives. There is a clear consensus that these events will continue to undermine critical infrastructure and negatively impact the economy, particularly with regard to the tourism of the state’s lakes and shore communities. Due to unjust racist practices like redlining, overburdened communities are already experiencing these stressors more severely than whiter and higher-wealth communities. Overburdened communities are more likely to have higher air and water pollution levels, be located in a flood zone, and more chronically suffer from an urban heat island.
In light of this fact, overburdened communities should be prioritized by the State HMP for mitigation funding. This pre-existing legislation, paired with the policy resources developed by the administration, provides the framework that would be needed to modernize New Jersey’s HMP that includes the most up to date assessments of how climate change is impacting the state, as well as, informs what strategies can be implemented to reduce risks from these hazards while also prioritizing over-burdened communities. The resources needed to finance updating New Jersey’s HMP are already included in the budget for the Office of Emergency Management. Additionally, municipalities will need funds as they identify opportunities to build climate resilience and improve community infrastructures to pay for these critical upgrades. Therefore, the State, through the Department of Environmental Protection, should administer a $10 million grant or low-interest loan program for municipalities to explore and implement innovative financing mechanisms like stormwater utilities to pay for these critical investments that prioritize green infrastructure solutions.