Bay Point Section Of Lawrence To Become Part Of Wildlife Management Area
Trenton, NJ – The Christie Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have partnered to buy and preserve as open space the Bay Point section of Cumberland County’s Lawrence Township, an area vulnerable to flooding, said Bob Martin, Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
The $9.4 million project will use state and federal funds to buy 33 homes and additional vacant lots in the Bay Point section of Lawrence, which suffered severe damage from Superstorm Sandy. The project will use $4.4 million in funds from the DEP’s Green Acres Program and $3 million from the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to convert the area to open space that will provide wildlife habitat and buffers against flooding. As part of the project, the DEP and NRCS will each provide an estimated $1 million toward ecological restoration of the properties.
“The Christie Administration is working to leverage all possible sources of federal funding to move people out of harm’s way,” said Commissioner Martin. “In Lawrence, as in other parts of the state, local officials and property owners have told us they’ve had enough of dealing with flooding, and just want an opportunity to start over again. We are pleased to join with USDA in an innovative project that will provide needed relief to property owners in Cumberland County.”
The funding is coming from the NRSC’s Emergency Watershed Protection Floodplain Easement Program.
“This federal funding will enable NRCS to purchase conservation easements on 41 of the 46 acres of the Bay Point peninsula, reducing the costs for the state to purchase the remaining properties,” said Carrie Mosley, State Conservationist for the NRCS New Jersey office in Somerset. “The NRCS will oversee the restoration of this important migratory bird habitat.”
Lawrence Township Mayor Elmer “Skip” Bowman sees the project as an opportunity to move people out of harm’s way while enhancing ecotourism for his rural community.
“We think this is a good fit for us,” Mayor Bowman said. “Flooding is not something new down here. We’re looking long range. Is this going to happen again? Yes. We feel for the people down there. They need an option. The area can be a good draw for fishing and appreciating wildlife.”
Bay Point was devastated by Sandy’s record storm surge. Some homes were destroyed, others remain uninhabitable. The access road continues to flood despite temporary restoration efforts. After property acquisition, structures will be demolished and the area will become part of a Wildlife Management Area operated by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife.
The Christie Administration has made acquisitions of areas that are repeatedly flooded a cornerstone of its Sandy recovery efforts. The Administration’s $300 million Sandy buyout program is purchasing damaged homes at pre-Sandy market values to provide residents with financial resources needed to relocate to residences in less flood-prone areas.
So far, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has provided some $55 million toward the purchase of 129 homes in Sayreville and 76 in South River. In addition to Sayreville and South River, which were the initial targets of the state’s buyout effort, the Blue Acres program has been formally expanded to areas of Woodbridge, East Brunswick and Newark.
For the USDA news release, visit: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/newsroom/releases/?cid=STELPRDB1241003
For more information on Sandy acquisition program, visit: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/greenacres/blue_flood_ac.html