By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
LONGPORT – Residents had the opportunity to learn what the borough is doing to make the town more resilient in the event of weather or other emergencies.
The annual meeting presented by Emergency Management Coordinator Bruce Funk held Thursday, Aug. 31 at Borough Hall, was designed to educate the public about the importance of having a Local Planning Committee review plans that reduce risk to life and property during emergency events. The borough has been conducting annual reviews of the plan, and meeting with the public since 2008, when the first plan was created, Funk said.
“The committee works to create standard operating procedures that are implemented during an emergency and to aggressively plan for future potential disasters,” Funk said.
Weather forecaster Jim Eberwine gave an overview of this year’s hurricane season, which started on June 1 and will last until Nov. 30. So far, there have been eight named storms with wind speeds of 40-150 miles per hour. Idalia hit Florida hard, but the only impact in New Jersey is dangerous rip currents.
“Things heat up in September,” Eberwine said. “Don’t let your guard down.”
The peak season for New Jersey coastal communities is Sept. 10 to Nov. 1 and the temperature of the ocean affects the severity of the storms, Eberwine said.
“And this year, temperatures are above normal.”
Eberwine said due to its location along the eastern seaboard, New Jersey often gets spared, but emergency management officials and residents should not get complacent.
“Like a tree seedling, you water it and it grows,” Eberwine said. “This is what tropical storms are like. With two more months to go, don’t let your guard down.”
Planner and grant consultant James Rutala of Rutala Associates of Linwood, who secures much of the state and federal funding available for resiliency projects, said with the addition of seawalls, a contiguous sand dune across most of the NJ coastline and engineered beaches, the state is better protected.
The next periodic review of a long-term planning project for the backbays currently being performed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be released next month. It will contain recommendations for improvements in bulkheads and new increased building heights, he said.
“South Jersey is a $7.7 billion economic engine that has to be protected, and it’s growing,” he said, noting that every community has its own unique concerns and are moving forward to fund projects.
FEMA recently announced $46 million in grants for resiliency projects with $32 million of it going to communities in Atlantic and Cape May counties.
Longport was awarded $849,375 for Phase 2 of its ongoing resiliency project, which will fund the replacement and installation of storm sewer infrastructure on Winchester Avenue at 31st and 34th avenues, including larger pipes and new inlets.
“There’s a lot of money in the bipartisan Infrastructure and Jobs Act for coastal resiliency and there will continue to be more aid available, but good planning is required,” Rutala said.
New requirements that will increase the recommended heights for bulkheads will affect private property owners, he said.
“The government can’t do everything. There’s going to have to be investments from the private sector as well,” he said.
Borough engineer Ed Dennis Jr. said Superstorm Sandy changed the conversation about resiliency on Absecon Island.
“Storms don’t know municipal boundaries,” he said. “We’re all in this together and it’s all about resiliency.”
Dennis said all municipal public works projects will include some component of resiliency using a three-pronged approach: raising bulkheads to higher elevations to keep water out, installing larger pipes in the ground whenever road projects are undertaken, and installing pump stations to get faster drainage following storm events.
“There is no silver bullet, but we have to think big to tackle big problems,” he said.
Longport has been fortunate in that there are 352 new homes that have been built at higher elevations.
Funk noted that the borough currently enjoys a Class 5 rating in FEMA’s Community Rating System, which offers a 25% discount on the cost of flood insurance. Longport needs 150 additional points to get to a Class 4 rating, which would provide residents with a 30% discount.
He noted that the borough has improved its early warning system which notifies residents of impending danger. The system is tested once a month from two locations – 31st Avenue and 16th Avenue.
Funk recommended that all residents register for emergency notifications to their cell phones or email addresses by visiting longportnj.gov.
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