FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 6, 2007

CONTACT: Sebastian D’Elia
Communications Director
Office: 908-527-4419 - Cell: 908-770-3662


Union County to contribute in-kind funding

Elizabeth – The County of Union has received a new FEMA grant of $325,000 that it will use to improve long term flood control efforts and disaster planning on a countywide basis.

“As a Cranford resident, I can testify that our towns have solved some huge problems over the last forty years and many areas remain vulnerable,” said Union County Freeholder Chairwoman Bette Jane Kowalski. “This federal grant provides us with the resources to step up our efforts to control flooding, and move the entire region forward.”

Union County will use the grant to develop an All Hazards Mitigation Plan required by new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) guidelines. Once completed, the Mitigation Plan will enable Union County to apply for extra federal funding for infrastructure improvements and other projects related to disaster planning. The additional funds are part of a nationwide program aimed at pre-emptive planning to reduce or avoid the damage caused by natural and manmade disasters.

Under the terms of the grant, FEMA will provide $325,000 to Union County toward developing its Mitigation Plan. Union County will match these funds with an in-kind contribution of $108,000, through the use of existing emergency management, planning, and engineering staff in County and municipal offices. The total cost of the project is $433,000.

The Mitigation Plan will address all types of hazards, from blizzards to chemical spills. Destructive flooding will receive particular attention due to the role of Union County as a lynchpin of the nation’s ground transportation network, and its importance as an industrial hub, particularly for pharmaceutical manufacturing and oil refining.

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, five of the ten worst floods in the region since 1938 have occurred within the past 15 years. Six federal declarations of disaster have been made in Union County due to flooding, most recently in April 2007.

The Mitigation Plan will involve officials from all 21 municipal governments in Union County. Professionals in emergency management and planning, law enforcement, fire service, public health, counter-terrorism, critical infrastructure, land use, flood plain issues, economic development, building codes, and public works will also be included in the process, as will members of the general public.

Along with infrastructure improvements, the Mitigation Plan will examine land use and development issues, waterfront revitalization programs, open space initiatives, and local ordinances throughout Union County for their potential to reduce hazards.

“Mitigation is a three-dollar word for common sense,” said Chairwoman Kowalski. “Rapid, unplanned development has robbed Union County of many fields, forests and wetlands that could provide cheap, effective storm drainage. By investing a relatively small amount in preserving open space today, we can save our towns millions in infrastructure costs down the road.”

Natural storm drainage has long been recognized as a cost-effective means of flood control. The County’s riverside parks, such as Lenape and Nomahegan, were originally designed to perform double duty as recreation sites and natural stormwater detention areas.

Work on the Mitigation Plan will start immediately. Including public hearings and town meetings, completion is expected by November 2008.

“This is our window of opportunity to plan carefully for the next generation,” said Chairwoman Kowalski. “Climate experts predict that storms may grow more intense and more frequent. Catch basins, storm drains and levies that serve their purpose now may not be up to the job, and flood-prone areas may become more vulnerable. By doing a thorough job today, we can ensure a safer, dryer future for all Union County residents.”