WARETOWN, NJ - Twenty-five local residents gathered at Pebble Beach on Tuesday, September 17 to call attention to regular flooding, which has become more frequent throughout the entire community. The focus was on bringing attention to deficiencies in mitigation efforts or affordable protection from flooding.
New Jersey Organizing Project, founded by Superstorm Sandy survivors, hosted this event along with another in Atlantic City, with yet another coming up this Friday in Ortley Beach. Waretown, just like all back bay communities in Ocean County was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy and is increasingly vulnerable to the impact of sea level rise. This is something many residents witness regularly after a rain or at high tide.
“Just like so many other communities, there are families like mine in Waretown who are still trying to recover from Sandy,” said Nancy Caira. Seven years later, Caira continues to struggle in navigating the complexities of multiple bureaucracies and putting together the financial resources needed to tear down and rebuild the home she shares with her husband.
“It’s easy to overlook the problem of every day flooding affecting me and my neighborhood," continued Caira. "The road at the end of my block is not passable at least 7-10 days every month."
Caira expressed her frustration that the flooding has resulted in her husband slowly changed the route he walks their dog every day because one stretch is continually flooded. "My good friend on the next block has to move her car every time there is a heavy rain, otherwise she can’t get out," lamented Caira. "Individually and infrequently, they were considered inconveniences, but over time they have become regular nuisances. And, it’s getting worse.”
“It really doesn’t make sense,” Caira continued, “Our home was built on what is now considered wetlands but we have no other option other than to rebuild. Or, walk away and lose everything. With no CO, we cannot sell the house “as is” and because we have a mortgage, we must carry flood insurance. Obviously, we should anyway, but without elevating to comply with the current requirements, our insurance would be over $11,000 a year."
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, by 2045, 7 % of the homes in Waretown are at risk of complete loss due to chronic inundation which at today's rates translate into an estimated 637 people, and contributes $1,750,284 to the local property tax base. Without action, the small close-knit community will not only take a tremendous will lose long-time residents who are at its heart.
FEMA will release updated flood maps in early 2020, doubling the amount of properties within flood zones. Premiums are also expected to double every four years with very limited resources for mitigation such as elevation and no resources for community-wide mitigation and adaptation. Sunny day flooding, where it does not have to rain to create flooding caused by certain high tides is now a monthly problem.
New Jersey is not prepared to take on the devastation from another storm and we know that Sandy caused severe health and financial problems for survivors.
Waretown resident and New Jersey Organizing Project member Tom Flood said “Living near the water is a dream for many. After a disaster like Superstorm Sandy, it became clear that coastal communities are at risk. We can’t wait any longer to mitigate - we need funding now. Storms are getting worse and more frequent, and we need solutions that will protect our communities without pricing our families out of the shore with astronomical flood insurance premiums.”
Other Flooding Issues
In the meantime, Sands Point resident Joey Fabozzi cites another problem related to flooding within Ocean Township. "My house wasn't hit by the tidal floods from Sandy," he admits. "However, flash floods caused by heavy rain affect everyone on Bay Parkway between Spruce and Central."
According to Fabozzi, the issue is related to problems with the way the Ocean County Roads Department redid the roads more than a decade ago. "It made the roads higher, which caused the water to pour into a number of local homes." said Fabozzi.
Fabozzi contacted not only local Ocean Township officials, but also sought help from county and state representatives. He never heard from the Ocean County Freeholders. However, Ninth District legislators Senator Chris Connors, Assemblyman Brian Rumpf, and Assemblywoman DiAnne Gove did respond with a letter to his request for assistance.
Apparently, Fabozzi's efforts resulted in some action. "Two county trucks showed up with additional vehicles with what appeared to be government representatives," said Fabozzi. "I asked if they would install storm drains and move the water to the woods instead of my house. I was informed that they would work on it."
Swedish 16 year old Greta Thunberg has called for young people to mobilize in “Climate Strikes” this September as students around the world plan strikes from school on Friday. The week of September 16th - 20th, youths calling for a mass mobilizations ahead of a United Nations emergency climate summit. According to organizers, over 1,700 strikes are planned in more than 150 countries. Some companies, like Burton and Patagonia will shut down both their physical and online stores on September 20th and encouraging employees and customers to strike.
Local communities across the nation are taking action to call attention to the impacts we are already seeing from sea level rise and extreme weather. New Jersey Organizing Project a grassroots organization fighting for real solutions for our communities.