The cost of buying all of the often flooded homes damaged by Ida would exceed $ 1 billion
TRENTON – The state’s top environmental official said that one of the striking things after the damage from former Hurricane Ida was the immediate interest in Blue Acres buying out often flooded properties.
Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette said the sentiment is mutual, though planning studies suggest this is the best way forward – but that money will have to be found to meet expected demand.
Some corporate tax revenue is spent on environmental purposes, and a 2019 law is channeling more of that money toward Blue Acres buyouts.
“We’re going to enjoy it, without a doubt,” said LaTourette. “But will it be enough to buy back in bulk communities that have been repeatedly flooded?” No. We will need federal help for this.
LaTourette said it would cost more than $ 1 billion to buy back all the houses that were repeatedly flooded and damaged by Ida, a sum he called “huge”. He expects any disaster recovery bill passed by Congress in response to this summer’s storms to include money for that purpose.
It’s not yet clear how much money the program might need, but LaTourette said he’s already hearing interest in cities like Manville. Just as Storm Sandy was a benchmark coastal storm that eventually led some communities to accept buyouts, Ida was a benchmark storm for river flooding.
“For a community to accept the reality of its risk and actually say to itself that we have to uproot ourselves and find a new community in which to live, it’s a great cultural enterprise for a community,” said LaTourette.
The Blue Acres program is voluntary, and LaTourette didn’t seem enthusiastic about forcing people to buy back. He said community buy-in was needed and there had been no conversations about the need to make buyouts mandatory, but he would be happy to have a conversation with lawmakers about it, though. that’s the direction they want to take.
“But I think we have to be realistic, right? Private property rights exist. This is America, ”he said.
“I don’t think we’re going to be able to help the public really appreciate the risk by having a big” or other “hammer sitting on the side,” LaTourette said.
LaTourette said there should be a conversation about reimagining the program, in part to decide whether it would be better to buy single-family homes even if entire groups of homeowners don’t want to participate.
Acquiring and destroying entire neighborhoods, converting land into flood basins, may have broader benefits for cities and regions beyond removing the risk for single-family homes, but individual buyouts can also have value, he said.
“We can put obstacles in our own way of transmitting risk if we just say we’re going to redeem entire communities,” LaTourette said.
Michael Symons is the State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at [email protected].
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