New Jersey buys 700th flood-prone home _ but none on ocean
TOMS RIVER, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey says it has bought its 700th home under a program to acquire and demolish houses in flood-prone areas.
But nearly seven years after Superstorm Sandy, not one of those purchases has been along the ocean.
The state Department of Environmental Protection announced the milestone Tuesday, the purchase of a home in South River in Middlesex County.
The clusters of homes bought thus far have mainly been along rivers, and some have been on or near bays, both of which are also flood-prone.
The environmental protection agency did not respond to a request for comment on why no oceanfront homes have been bought under the Blue Acres program.
But it has in the past said there have been no willing sellers in those areas. The program is strictly voluntary.
"The Blue Acres Program remains an important component of the state's strategy to make New Jersey more resilient to storms and flooding by giving willing sellers of flood-prone properties an opportunity for a fresh start," DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe said in a news release.
It uses federal and state funds to acquire and demolish clusters of residential properties in flood-prone areas and permanently preserves the land as open space for recreation or conservation purposes.
The agency says the program has acquired homes in Sayreville, South River, Woodbridge, Old Bridge and East Brunswick in Middlesex County; Manville in Somerset County; Pompton Lakes in Passaic County; Newark in Essex County; Rahway and Linden in Union County; Lawrence and Downe townships in Cumberland County; New Milford in Bergen County; Ocean Township in Monmouth County and Pleasantville in Atlantic County.
The DEP says it has received expressions of interest from homeowners and governments in other parts of the state.
It says it has secured federal funding for 1,022 properties and has made offers on 967, closing on 700 of them. So far, more than 640 homes have been demolished.
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, called the milestone important, and praised the program. But he said it has to do more to acquire homes along the oceanfront.
"We need more funding to expand this program because we need to relocate people out of areas where there will be future storms," he said. "Not offering buyouts along the coast is moving New Jersey in the wrong direction. There are people who want to be bought out but unless they know they can depend on government funds, they will rebuild instead. This wastes money and keeps people in harm's way."
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