Atlantic County Community Leverages Post-Sandy Planning Grants to Mitigate Impact of Future Adverse Weather Events and Modernize City’s Downtown Business Area
TRENTON – The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) commends City of Brigantine officials for their innovative use of Post-Sandy Planning Assistance Grants to protect residents and businesses against future adverse weather events while also supporting the community’s economic growth. Resiliency plans developed with Post-Sandy Planning Assistance Grants allowed Brigantine to qualify for funding to replace and elevate an important water well, make major streetscape improvements to its business corridor, and install a storm water pump station and flood gates at a major boat ramp along the bay area.
“Brigantine has used our planning grant exactly as intended: To assess community vulnerability to a variety of storm conditions and identify the remedies that could be applied to alleviate problems. Planners paid for with the State grant identified the problems and documented resilient solutions. Brigantine used those recommendations to leverage additional funds,” said DCA Commissioner Charles A. Richman, whose department administers many of the State’s Sandy recovery programs. “These leveraged funds are being used for worthwhile projects that will enable the City to mitigate the impact of future storms and help put economic development on a stronger footing.”
DCA Deputy Commissioner Samuel Viavattine, who leads DCA’s Sandy Recovery Division, recently joined Brigantine Mayor Philip J. Guenther Jr. and City Manager Edward Stinson to view two of the improvement projects already under construction. They also discussed other projects that Brigantine was able to undertake based on the plans developed with DCA Post-Sandy Planning Assistance Grants.
The Post-Sandy Planning Assistance Grant Program supports towns damaged by Superstorm Sandy to develop comprehensive plans that will improve resilience in the face of future severe weather. DCA awarded Brigantine, a 10-square-mile island city in Atlantic County, more than $300,000 in Post-Sandy Planning Grants.
“Brigantine would not have been able to afford this kind of advanced planning without the Post-Sandy Planning Grant,” said Mayor Guenther. “Brigantine is on a barrier island so water is a fact of life. The resiliency planning is aimed at preventing water inundation, but also helping the City get rid of water when flooding does happen.”
Armed with the plans funded by the Post-Sandy Planning Assistance Grant, Brigantine applied for and secured a $750,000 Stronger New Jersey Neighborhood and Community Revitalization Grant from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) for streetscape improvements. The project will enhance Brigantine’s Sandy-impacted downtown business district with new sidewalks, curbing, lighting, landscaping, and streetscape furniture. Construction on the project, which is fully grant funded, began in September 2016 and is approximately half finished. The work will give the business community a boost to revitalize and bring back shoppers, said Mayor Guenther.
Brigantine is now applying for a grant that would enable the City to encourage business owners in the district to improve their storefronts and facades. Some owners have already been inspired by the streetscape improvements the City is making. “We’ve seen it already where some business owners are doing concrete work on their own,” said City Manager Stinson, who is also the City Engineer.
In the second project under construction, Brigantine used the plans drawn up with Post-Sandy Planning Assistance Grant funding to apply for and receive a $1.5 million New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust grant to replace and elevate Well #9. Construction on the project should be completed and operational in August 2017. The new water well will serve a sizeable portion of the island where Brigantine is located. Because of Sandy’s storm surge, the well was threatened and nearly contaminated by ocean flood waters.
“Well #9 is the City’s southernmost well and it provides water to a large portion of the City,” said City Manager Stinson. “During Sandy, Well #9 was close to being impacted since flood waters reached the top of the well system due to the existing low elevation of the well head. The new well that is close to finishing construction will be a foot and a half above the flooring.”
According to city officials, the Sandy planning grants motivated the Brigantine City Council to bond $12 million for storm mitigation projects, which allowed the City to begin preparations for these projects and make them shovel-ready.
The other projects in the works include:
- Installing a storm water pump station and flood gates at the 5th Street South Boat Ramp along the bay, an area that has experienced repeated flooding, which has damaged numerous homes in the neighborhood. The City applied for and secured a $700,000 Stronger New Jersey Neighborhood and Community Revitalization Grant from the EDA for the project, which started construction in October. “The flood gate will give us the opportunity that when we know a storm is coming, we can gate the ramp to give us more time to get people out,” City Manager Stinson said.
- Installing an elevated micro-grid emergency generator at City Hall. The City applied for and secured a $100,000 FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant for the project, which will ensure that emergency first responders, who lost power during Sandy, will always have communications and power during future weather events.
- Creating a watershed management plan, which would help Brigantine become a Level 4 community. In a significant benefit for homeowners, Brigantine used the Post-Sandy Planning Grant to successfully improve its Community Rating System classification from a 6 to a 5, resulting in annual flood insurance savings to residents of $1,223,780. This translates into a 20 percent savings per household. The FEMA program provides incentives to towns to be more resilient. Brigantine would become the first Level 4 community in New Jersey, which could potentially result in a further 5 percent reduction in flood insurance premiums for City residents.
- Installing storm water pump stations at Hackney Place, 34th Street South and Jenkins Parkway. The City applied for and secured $1.5 million from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for the project, which is fully grant funded and is expected to begin construction later this year.
- Building four living shoreline improvements along Brigantine Boulevard. The City applied for and secured a $125,000 grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation – Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competitive Grants and in association with the DEP. The shoreline improvements are expected to begin construction later this year.
- Making storm water improvements to several areas of the City, including the golf course, Ocean Drive West, 12th Street North and East Evans Avenue. The City applied for and is pursuing financing through the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust for the projects.
Through the Post-Sandy Planning Assistance Grant Program, DCA has approved planning grants for approximately 49 local government entities, awarding nearly $12 million. For more information on Post-Sandy Planning Assistance Grants, go to http://www.nj.gov/dca/services/lps/pspag.html.