Sandy impacts county hazard plan update

Towns add new storm-related initiatives to mitigation projects

Staff Writer

 Long Branch and other municipalities are updating plans to include mitigation projects to control storm-related damage like the flooding that occurred in this Atlantic Avenue neighborhood during Sandy. Long Branch and other municipalities are updating plans to include mitigation projects to control storm-related damage like the flooding that occurred in this Atlantic Avenue neighborhood during Sandy. The widespread impact of superstorm Sandy has broadened the scope of Monmouth County’s Hazard Mitigation Plan update to include post-storm projects for all 53 municipalities.

“What’s going to change with this plan is the municipalities will have some clearcut information to add new priorities based on the experiences of Sandy,” Michael Oppegaard, coordinator of the Monmouth County Office of Emergency Management, said.

According to Oppegaard, the county began the plan update prior to the Oct. 29 storm, but he now expects the plan to be much more expansive.

“We expect to see some different stuff because everything that is in the plan is based on history,” he said in an April 11 interview. “Now, we have new areas where we received damage.”

“I expect a lot more identified potential projects and, obviously, some more clarity on the potential impacted areas.”

The county is currently hosting workshop meetings with municipal officials and the project contractor, URS Corp.

“We’re providing all the avenues for them so they don’t have an enormous amount of work to do,” Oppegaard said. “We provide the contractor, we do these workshop sessions for them, and they come in with the information.

“Last week, we actually had four days of workshops, and they also have some worksheets that they are completing now.”

On Monday, Mauro Baldanza, director of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) in Oceanport, was scheduled to meet with the county OEM and the contractor. He said most of the borough’s priorities are a direct result of Sandy.

“It significantly impacted [the borough] because of the number of homes we are looking at possibly lifting,” he said. “If the storm never happened, those issues wouldn’t have been there.”

Among the projects that the borough is listing as priorities in the updated plan are the elevation of homes, relocation of borough hall, emergency generators for both borough schools, and improvements to storm drains, according to Baldanza.

During the April 4 Ocean Township Council workshop meeting, Township Manager Andrew Brannen said the 2009 plan helped the township receive two FEMA grants totaling $7.7 million to acquire and demolish 61 senior housing units in the Poplar Village housing complex that has been plagued with flooding problems over several years.

“Monmouth County was one of the first counties in the state and even nationally to have a county-wide mitigation plan,” he said. “Ironically enough, that is one of the reasons we were able to get the money for Poplar Village, because our project was part of that plan.”

Brannen said the increased flooding of Whale Pond Brook since the original plan has changed the priorities in Ocean.

“This is going to be a pretty monumental effort because every town is going to have projects that they weren’t even thinking of three or four years ago,” he said. “Last time they did this [in] Poplar Village, Poplar Brook was our main area of concern.

“That is still an area of concern, but certainly Whale Pond Brook is right up there at this point. It is good timing for us, and the key is to be involved in the process, get your projects on their radar and then come back with an application.”

Baldanza said the borough is actively meeting the requirements and timelines the county has set.

“There are deadlines where we have to provide certain aspects of the plan,” he said. “We recently put in information as far as contact people. We also put in information about the national flood insurance program.

“In April, there is another deadline coming up for two or three different worksheets. They look basically at prior history and for information from us as to what affects us the most and how we dealt with it in the past.”

Although hurricanes, flooding and windstorms get the majority of the attention in the plan, Baldanza said earthquakes, mud slides and wildfires are also included.

“All of the different hazards are right there, and it assesses how each different town might be affected by those things,” he said.

According to Oppegaard, municipalities are able to use the county plan to meet certain requirements for grant applications.

“They use the county-wide plan for their information,” he said. “They will just take that information out of the plan and attach it to their grant application to back it up.”

Oppegaard expects the plan to be completed by January 2015, and the county is using a $297,000 FEMA grant to pay for the contractor.

Once the plan is completed, it will be submitted to the state Police Mitigation Unit as part of the state Office of Emergency Management and then to FEMA for final approval.

Oppegaard explained that because of the expansive damage from the storm and the possible shortfall in federal disaster funding, there would be several projects included with the mitigation plan.

“With the limited amount of funds that will come out and the number of projects that we have, the cost of those projects are going to be a challenge to be funded,” he said.

“Those projects will carry over and be included in the plan as projects that need to be done.”

Along with grant opportunities from FEMA, Oppegaard said the mitigation plan could be included for grant applications from other federal, state and county grant programs.

Oppegaard said Sea Bright and Neptune have also seen grant money come in because of the 2009 plan.