TRENTON – The Joint Budget Oversight Committee unanimously approved a resolution to move $8 million in Green Acres funds to the Blue Acres program to help towns buy out properties regularly subjected to flooding.
The grants would go several towns in the Passaic River Basin, an area that was particularly hard-hit following Hurricane Irene. They include Fairfield, Denville, Lincoln Park, Pequannock, Paterson, Little Falls, Pompton Lakes and Parsippany-Troy Hill. Four other towns outside the basin – Middlesex, Manville, Westwood and New Milford, will also qualify for the funds.
The state is expected to also receive approximately $24 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which would bring the total amount of funding infusion for the program to $32 million.
Towns can only use the funds to buy out, and remove, the homes subjected to flooding, and preserve it as open space. The towns cannot build new houses on the cleared land.
Committee Chairman and Sen. Paul Sarlo, (D-36), of Wood-Ridge, requested a breakdown from each town be made available on how much of the money is being use for so-called “soft costs,” which include engineering, surveying, demolition, etc.
Even with the appropriation, environmental officials said the money will probably not be enough.
“It’s a drop in the bucket at a time when we’re losing open space money,” said New Jersey Sierra Club Executive Director Jeff Tittel. “There’s not enough money to go around. The way to solve this problem is to move them out of harm’s way. Unfortunately, we’re grabbing money wherever we can get them. It’s not enough and it’s coming too late.”
Tom Gilbert of New Jersey Keep It Green also said the state doesn’t have enough funds to meet its long-term needs.