In Deep: Helping Sandy-Affected Communities Address Vulnerability and Risk

In Deep chronicles the Local Recovery Planning Manager (LRPM) program that was implemented by the non-profit organization New Jersey Future for selected Hurricane Sandy-affected coastal communities in greatest need. This report describes the program’s initial goals, successes and challenges, and lessons learned that can inform future disaster recovery initiatives both in New Jersey and across the country.

After an extensive vetting process, New Jersey Future came to an agreement with six towns for the program: Sea Bright and Highlands in Monmouth County; Little Egg Harbor and Tuckerton in Ocean County; and Commercial and Maurice River in Cumberland County. 

As New Jersey Future began its community engagements, attention was fixed on municipal recovery and returning to “normal” life. The LRPMs began by focusing on securing funding to undertake a wide range of projects tailored to serve the municipalities’ short-term needs. Across the six towns the LRPMs secured approximately $8 million in grants from a variety of sources to fund such diverse projects as:

  • living shoreline restoration,
  • streetscape upgrades,
  • lagoon dredging,
  • repair of wastewater facilities,
  • flood protection of a historic lighthouse, and
  • acquisition of emergency radio communication equipment.

Given the importance of understanding future risk and the noted general reluctance to facing it, New Jersey Future devised an evaluation method that would address the needs of local officials and residents. They developed a vulnerability and risk analysis explicitly intended to convincingly relate the impacts of sea-level rise. This mapping analysis predicts community-level inundation under various future scenarios, then models resulting structural damage and calculates both the property owners’ financial exposure and the towns’ related potential tax revenue losses.

The report concludes with some suggestions for bringing state and federal disaster recovery policies and programs into alignment with the goals of both the LRPM program and with FEMA’s National Disaster Recovery Framework.

In mid-December 2012, with FEMA’s encouragement, the Merck Foundation committed the funding to support New Jersey Future’s LRPM program. New Jersey Future proposed the LRPM program to the New Jersey Recovery Fund, (led by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and the Community Foundation of New Jersey) and at the end of May 2013 the fund awarded one of its largest grants to New Jersey Future’s effort. This enabled the organization to create four LRPM positions, one of which would be responsible for overall program coordination and management as well as local project-specific support, and three that would be embedded with towns for at least 18 months.

 

Publication Date: October 2015

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  • New Jersey Future

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  • Best practice
  • Case study

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