Trenton, NJ – Today, the Flood Defense Act passed the Assembly with a vote count of 49-27, the final step before Governor Phil Murphy can sign the legislation into law. The bill, / , enables municipalities to create much-needed local stormwater programs to control flooding and reduce pollution. It previously passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Jan. 28.
“New Jersey League of Conservation Voters and our Flood Defense New Jersey partners are so pleased to see this bill on track to become law,” said Ed Potosnak, Executive Director of New Jersey League of Conservation Voters (LCV). “New Jersey has a $16 billion problem to address stormwater and defend our communities from flooding. We look forward to Governor Murphy signing this bill so local municipalities will finally have a proven model to address this growing threat.”
The Flood Defense Act empowers local communities to establish a “stormwater utility,” a dedicated fund to help fix infrastructure and reduce polluted runoff from entering their waterways. The bill is permissive, not mandatory, and offers local governments an important tool to defend against flooding. It is sponsored by Assemblyman John McKeon (D-27) and Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin (D-18).
“New Jersey's polluted runoff problem affects all of us, and it isn't going to go away on its own. We are pleased that the legislature has recognized the importance of stormwater utilities to reducing flooding and the road closures, property losses and business disruption it causes,” said Chris Sturm, Managing Director of Policy of Water at New Jersey Future.
The Flood Defense New Jersey Coalition, led by New Jersey LCV Education Fund and comprised of state and local nonprofit organizations, launched in November and strongly supports this legislation. The bill would enable New Jersey municipalities to join the more than 1,800 communities across 41 states that rely on stormwater utilities to defend against water contamination and flooding.
“Runoff is a threat to any and all bodies of water and communities in New Jersey,” said Jaclyn Rhoads, Assistant Executive Director of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance. “I am excited to see how the communities in the Pinelands, especially in the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer, use this new opportunity to prevent pollution in our water, clean-up lakes, and reduce localized flooding.”
“This bill gives communities the tools to establish stormwater utilities that sustainably fund green infrastructure projects. Stormwater utilities are critical for protecting our drinking water sources and alleviating the stresses of regular local flooding. We urge Governor Murphy to sign it into law, and we look forward to continuing to work with municipalities on these priorities,” said Jennifer M. Coffey, Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions (ANJEC) Executive Director.
The programs allow a municipality to assess a flood defense fee based on how much hard surface – such as concrete or pavement – is on a property; these kinds of surfaces contribute to increased runoff. The revenue then enters a Clean Stormwater and Flood Reduction Fund. The money supports on-the-ground projects to reduce pollution by replacing failing infrastructure, restoring or enhancing stormwater management systems and creating buffers and green spaces to filter runoff.
Julia Somers, Executive Director of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition, said, “Nearly two-thirds of the residents in New Jersey rely on the Highlands for their drinking water. Keeping pollution of our waterways is essential to the health of our state's families and businesses.”
The Senate version of the bill, sponsored by Senators Bob Smith (D-17) and Kip Bateman (R-16), passed with bipartisan support in June with a 25-15 vote count.
Flood Defense New Jersey is a coalition of state and local nonprofit organizations working to protect our communities from damaging floods and harmful stormwater pollution.