Monday, November 19, 2012

Green coalition applauds as NJ open space bills advance

The environmental coalition, NJ Keep it Green, saluted the Assembly Appropriations Committee's release today of a package of bills containing a total of $123 million in spending for open space projects, including flood-related, property buyouts. 

“The members of the Assembly Appropriations Committee clearly understand that open space helps protect against flooding and is becoming increasingly important with the more frequent occurrence of superstorms like Hurricane Sandy,” said Tom Gilbert, NJ Keep It Green chairman. “

This round of funding, which is expected to pass both houses and be signed by Gov. Chris Christie, represents the last of the Green Acres and Blue Acres funds from the statewide 2009 bond referendum which voters approved to allocate $400 million for open space, farmland and historic preservation projects.

The legislation released by the committee provides funding for a range of park, land and water protection projects, including more than $26.8 million for projects to buy-out flood-impacted properties in both in-land and coastal areas and to protect undeveloped coastal watershed and riparian lands to help prevent future flood damage. These projects were in the pipeline prior to Hurricane Sandy.

Food-related funding in the package includes:

  • More than $2.4 million in Coastal Blue Acres Acquisition grants in Linwood City, Atlantic County; Cape May City, Cape May County; and Fair Haven Borough, Monmouth County. The program provides 50 percent matching grants for the acquisition by local governments of certain land in the coastal zone that has been damaged by a storm or storm-related flooding.
     
  • $12 million in Blue Acres funding for the acquisition of properties damaged by flooding, or that may be prone to incurring damage caused by storms or storm-related flooding, or that may buffer or protect other lands from flood and storm damage.

  • More than $3.4 million in Green Acres grants for flood-related acquisitions in Atlantic, Monmouth, Bergen, Passaic and Morris counties.

  • $9 million in Green Acres funding for state coastal watershed land acquisitions, including $2 million in the Cape May Peninsula, $4 million in the Delaware Bay Watershed and $3 million in the Barnegat Bay Watershed. 

NJ Keep It Green describes itself as "a coalition of more than 170 park and conservation advocates working to create a long-term, dedicated source of funding for the preservation and stewardship of New Jersey’s natural areas, waterways, parks, farmland and historic sites."

The coalition led successful campaigns to pass statewide ballot measures in 2006, 2007, and 2009 generating $600 million for state open space, farmland and historic preservation programs. 

The group cites a 2012 poll in which, it says, 75 percent of New Jersey voters would support dedicating $200 million annually for 30 years to preserve open space, farms, and historic sites and protect water supplies. In addition, it says that 89 percent found it important to protect lands in coastal and inland areas that are prone to, or affected by, flooding

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