Proposed building rules are “wrong decision” to stop floods, Murphy’s business groups say

More than a dozen business groups have called on Gov. Phil Murphy to stop his administration from issuing emergency rules for new construction in certain flood-prone areas of New Jersey, saying it could delay or cancel thousands of development projects and turns to a “wrong decision” in a flood.

NJ Advance Media reported last week that the State Department of the Environment is preparing to enforce the rules eight months after tropical storm Ida to help maintain the state’s internal flood zones as storms are expected to occur more often and more intensely due to climate change.

Both the DEP and environmentalists said it would help drive development in New Jersey, especially in areas still being rebuilt by Ida, by increasing the area covered by flood zones. This, they say, will help protect both residents and property.

But the New Jersey Business and Industry Association and 18 other business groups wrote in a June 3 letter to Murphy that the changes would adversely affect a myriad of much-needed development and infrastructure projects that are planned or already designed and designed with great price for both the private and public sectors. “

The groups estimate that about 5% to 10% of the country’s construction area – about 200,000 to 400,000 acres – will be affected by the rules.

In the letter, the groups disputed the DEP’s claim that there was an “imminent danger” and argued that although flood maps needed to be updated, Ida indicated that the real problem was inadequate rainwater facilities.

“This emergency rule addresses the wrong problem with the wrong solution,” they wrote.

Murphy spokesman Bailey Lawrence said on Wednesday that as climate change intensifies, flooding in New Jersey “will continue to increase in frequency and severity.”

“Extreme weather events such as tropical storm Ida, which killed 30 New Jersey residents, are proof that we need to actively strengthen resilience across the state,” Lawrence said in a statement. “The Murphy administration will continue to respond to the deteriorating climate crisis with evidence-based solutions and investments that protect New Jersey residents from injury while protecting homes and businesses from property damage.

Ida fell 10 inches of rain in just a few hours in parts of Essex, Hunterden, Middlesex and Union counties last September, leading to severe flash floods, damage to homes across the state and 30 deaths.

The DEP said the rules would change the way they regulate development in areas affected by internal floods caused by rainwater runoff, as seen during Ida, as opposed to tidal floods. The rules will use current and future rainfall levels instead of two-decade-old figures and update how rainwater runoff should be managed.

David Pringle of EmpowerNJ, a coalition of environmental groups, said that “science has shown that areas that were not flooded at all are now flooded, and areas that were flooded from time to time are now flooded more often. “.

“We need rules that reflect the latest science to better protect people and property,” Pringle told NJ Advance Media last week.

In particular, the DEP will increase the design flood altitudes by two feet in areas without tidal waters or internal floods, according to the agency’s presentation.

The agency will also require the use of new precipitation forecasts when calculating the projected flood altitude and the mandated rainwater runoff to be calculated not only for today’s storms but also for future storms, according to the presentation.

This, according to officials, is necessary because climate change has caused increased rainfall, and current state rules rely on rainfall data only in 1999. They do not take into account the increase due to climate change or future conditions.

The rules do not apply to existing developments, but only to future development and reconstruction projects, according to the presentation.

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Brent Johnson can be reached on [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @ johnsb01.

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