OCFC UPDATE 8-23-18
On June 13, some of the Core Committee took a field trip to visit two living shoreline projects in Brigantine with the hope that we could learn more about this technique for staving off flooding in coastal environments. And BOY did we learn a lot! Living shorelines, if installed properly, will develop over time to provide a natural approach to flood mitigation and provide habitat for flora and fauna which greatly enhances our ecosystem. These improved shorelines help stabilize our coastline, provide a buffer from tidal surges and assist with storm water management. Mr. Steven Jacobus, Section Chief of NJ Department of Environmental Protection Land Use Management, Office of Coastal & Land Use Planning took us to see two of his projects which are protecting the main road in/out of Brigantine. We noted that between the bay and the public bulkhead there was a tidal marsh which hosted a variety of flora and fauna while still providing a navigable waterway for the boats and scenic vistas for the residents. Between the bulkhead and the street there were berms and large cages of rocks covered with native plantings such as goldenrod, salt marsh asters, sea myrtle, bayberry bushes, beach plum and more. Water flowed away from the roadway and homes and into the bay via camouflaged drainage pipes buried under ground and also is percolated through the berms and rocks preventing the town from being inaccessible during a flooding event. This area was flourishing with little to no help or maintenance from the city once installed (which is very cost effective), looked beautiful and provided the same or more protection than a 10 ft. sea wall I believe. This strategy would be very useful here. We are most grateful to the EPA and Mr. Jacobus for the tour, information and advice. You can see photos of our trip on our Facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/groups/774395012637361/
On June 28th OCFC packed city council chambers because we had information that the city intended to stop the work on the 28th -33rd sts flood remediation project for the summer. Many people spoke about how stopping would not be in the best interest of the residents who live there and all encouraged the city to continue the work. The video is available on our Facebook page. Mayor Gillian stated that ‘people shouldn’t believe rumors they read on Facebook and that the city has ‘no intention for stopping this project until after Labor Day’. Yet, the very next day Mayor Gillian put out the following statement “Alleys in the project area will be paved after Labor Day.” That IS stopping the project before it is complete and it is causing a bathtub like effect at least at the corners of 29th and 30th sts (and others I’m sure) where the road was raised and the curbs now are higher but the alleys are not resulting in properties near the corners of the alleys experiencing worsening flooding. As I write this I have not seen any work done on 30th str in nearly a month and the city says the pump is not yet installed. This project was announced in August 2016 and was, according to the city, due to be completed by Memorial Day 2017. Then it was very quietly reduced in scope by the city. We are now fast approaching Labor Day 2018 with no relief in sight. There is no excuse in my opinion for this greatly reduced project to be a year and a half behind schedule. I have been told by some of the workers that the frequent delays were caused in large part by the city issuing change of work orders but the city has told us no change orders have been approved yet. The first one will be presented to city council tonight. We do not how much over budget has this project gone at this point. We will continue to ask and let you all know what if any answers we get.
OCFC continues to be disappointed that the city continues to spend money on other projects such as the lifesaving station, building a new police station and wanting to purchase the car dealership by the library after having removed a large portion of the flooding remediation plan in what the city termed the worse are for flooding for “lack of funds”. I don’t believe that would be happening if all of us were vocal with city council about priorities when spending our tax dollars.
I also spoke at this meeting to our city administration (video available on our Facebook page and the city website) about the fact that Councilman Bob Barr has been disparaging Ocean City Flooding Committee and me personally. He has been telling folks on Facebook not to join our group. Interesting since prior to that amid his public claims that I am crazy and a liar he was asking me to allow him on our page so he could have access to our 2200+ members. He has repeatedly refused to apologize for his immature behavior. That is not conduct becoming of an elected official. I am ashamed he is my ward representative. I hope people will remember his many incidents of poor conduct at election time.
We have submitted many emails to the city administration and requests for information through the Open Public Records Act. I spoke at the June 28th council meeting telling the Mayor and council that my requests for information are being ignored and suggested that we hire a full time Business Admin instead of a part time person. I stand by that. No one man, or woman, can do everything we need a business administrator to do here and also take care of SIC. Some questions we would like an answer to are; Why are we spending significant tax dollars on a living shoreline on Shooting Island rather than on our island? How will this project benefit the residents of Ocean City? Why are we spending $1.2 of 3 million on this plan if it is only going to benefit a few homes along the bay between Shooting Island and Tennessee Ave? Why not do it on our actual coastline? Is the dredge material they intend to dump there safe for humans? (The city and the EPA say spoils must be tested and shown to be below the allowable levels of toxins as defined by the EPA). What, if any changes have been made to the 29th to 33rd str project since it was presented by the mayor in Aug. 2016 not including the significant reduction in the plan that removed several blocks. We still can’t get an answer to that.
UPDATE- on Aug. 3, several members of OCFC met with G. Savastano and two of his staff. I feel that it was a somewhat productive first step to more efficient and meaningful conversations between the city and our group. At least I hope so. In addition to the questions above some of the other things we asked are; Q: When will restitution be made for the trees and shrubs cut down on 52nd st? A: Not any time soon. The area has regrown its phragmites and the city feels that is enough at this time although they will keep it an open item. Q: Will the city power wash the homes covered in black soot from the mid island construction that has lasted for nearly a year? A: No. We mentioned that we believe the Shooting Island project may actually result in more flooding for some of the residents living bay side across the bay from it north of the airport. The city disagreed with us. I also stated that I think paying well over a million dollars for this off island project seems like an untried experiment at best and a big mistake at its worst. We would like the city to consider creating living shore lines on our shores instead. Q: When will the mid island project be complete? A: Unknown.
Mayor Gillian stated back in Aug. 2016 that the area of 26th str – 34th str between the Ocean and the Bay was the area most in need of flooding remediation. Shortly after that presentation the city quietly took a large portion of the project out due to lack of funds. Now the city is putting at least $1.2 mil. into shooting island supposedly to reduce flooding and also as a place to dump dredge spoils and is initiating $5 mil in grants for projects in the north and south ends according to the city web site. We think they should finish one project properly before moving on to more and all the while we believe they need to be working on both a long and short term plan for islandwide flood mitigation and remediation plan.
OCFC has formally requested that the city put barricades up on streets that are flooded as they had been doing in the past, to prevent cars and trucks from venturing into high water whether intentionally or unsuspectingly. Either way damage occurs to the surrounding properties and the vehicles every time any vehicle drives through flood water. The city seemed to have stopped doing this over this summer.
I continue to meet monthly via internet with our hydrologist, Dr. Tom Herrington, Harriett Festing, Dir. of SPOUT! and The Anthropocene Alliance and Sarah Wilkins, Project Manager, Thriving Earth Exchange and the American Geophysical Union. We discuss ways they can support the work of OCFC and ways we can help develop a national platform for flooding. They are a wealth of resources and information. I also meet monthly with leaders of other flooding groups from all over the country facilitated by Festing. There have been several webinars as well that I participated in on behalf of OCFC members. There are power points of these on our Facebook page and hopefully on our new FIT website once it is up and running. Two were Floodplain policies for Flood Survivors and Flood Insurance Claims 101. Here is a link to that https://youtu.be/yXmQdwxQASE. I attended a fabulously informative talk about green infrastructure too. Here it is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrkzbZUB6k0&feature=youtu.be
Something interesting I have learned is that our flooding problems are not that unique to the coast or to NJ. Failing, neglected infrastructure and overdevelopment are nationwide problems. Donna Moore, part of our Core Committee has been attending zoning board meetings and has observed that the board is approving most everything requested and may not be considering the impact to our flooding when approving variances that decrease pervious surface. We must increase the pervious surface as we grow if we want to try to hold back the worsening of our flooding. She and I will be perusing this. We also suggest that you too attend a meeting. The purpose of the Zoning board as posted in the city web site is “The intent of the Zoning Division is to enforce a precise and detailed plan for the use of land in Ocean City and is enacted in order to promote and to protect the public health, safety, morals, comfort, convenience and the general welfare of the people.”. We have observed that the chair of the Environmental Commission is going in front of the Zoning Board as an architect, requesting variances for decreases in the permeable surface requirement. This is confusing. We will look into that further.
I attended a webinar hosted by The Elevated Studios, http://www.theelevatedstudio.org/,a company founded by design professionals that aims to elevate individuals and communities through design excellence. They presented a wealth of information that may be helpful to many here in Ocean City. I am looking into inviting them to speak at a future Fairness In Taxes Meeting.
Ocean City Flooding Committee has given many, print*, online and video interviews about our flooding situation here in Ocean City following the release of the Union Of Concerned Scientists Report https://www.ucsusa.org/global-warming/global-warming-impacts/sea-level-rise-chronic-floods-and-us-coastal-real-estate-implications#.W1YZndJKjIX which basically states that sea level rise is a huge threat to us here in Ocean City. “MOST TO LOSE? FLORIDA AND NEW JERSEY On the east coast of the United States, generations of people have made homes and set up shop close to the water, making this coast some of the most developed land in the country. Often this development has taken place within fragile environments such as barrier islands and filled wetlands; some of the gravest consequences of this overdevelopment will be along the New Jersey and Florida coasts. Within the next 30 years, roughly 64,000 homes in Florida and 62,000 in New Jersey will be at risk of chronic flooding. Along the Florida coast, Miami Beach alone, with its iconic high rises located within steps of the beach, accounts for more than 12,000 of those homes.2 Of New Jersey’s beach towns, 10 are projected to have at least 1,500 at-risk homes by 2045. Ocean City tops the list with more than 7,200 at-risk homes.”
Core Committee has met a few times. Please send me an email if you’d like to be more involved. We need help! Currently we are moving forward with the following plans and programs;
Coastal Keepers Citizen Science Monitoring Program is being implemented by Office of Coastal and Land Use Planning, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. OCFC will be participating in this endeavor to document and monitor areas that repeatedly flood on the island. This will involve taking fixed point photos and documenting the date, time, and duration type information. When we start this program information specific to it will be made public and we hope many will participate especially since it is free. Donna Moore and I met with the directors of this program last week for the DEP and gave them a tour of the island where we identified areas of flooding and volunteer observer properties and we have about 20 volunteers as well. We will be developing a plan specific to OC and hopefully can get the city to participate with us. I’ll keep you informed. We can add more volunteers at any time.
There is another group, I See Change, who would like us to help with flood monitoring in a different way using an app. The data would be more detailed than Coastal Keepers and nationwide. Our hydrologist, Dr. Herrington has gotten a grant to provide us with the required rain gauges that are National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admin, approved. We are getting four. I’m excited about both these opportunities which will provide data the state can use to track flooding and may actually result in monies being made available to the city for flood remediation and mitigation. They will also provide data for grant applications.
Dr. Herrinton has also given us information on several upcoming webinars that are free and will be very informative. I will send them in a separate email. There are excellent learning opportunities, so please consider taking advantage of them.
We are identifying resources to have our flood water scientifically analyzed. More information will be forthcoming about that.
Please take the opportunity to read this free publication entitled Ecological Solutions: Coastal Community Hazards https://www.nwf.org/CoastalSolutionsGuideNJ. It is very informative! “The guide was produced by the National Wildlife Federation in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Coastal and Land Use Planning with financial support from the U.S. Department of the Interior and administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competitive Grant Program.” Fairness In Taxes also has a hard copy to lend.
We continue in our commitment to understand our vulnerabilities where flooding is concerned and advocate on behalf of all Ocean City residents to ensure the city is addressing and reducing our risks in both long and short term island wide plans. If you would like to become more involved just send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As you can see Ocean City Flooding Committee and Fairness In Taxes has been working very hard on your behalf. Please help us help you by joining FIT. It is only $15 per family per year! Just send an email to email@example.com.
Respectfully submitted to you by, Suzanne Hornick
Chairperson Ocean City Flooding Committee
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