Dep Makes $45 Million In Low-Interest Loans Available For Dam Safety And Flood Mitigation Projects That Enhance Climate Resilience
(21/P37) TRENTON – With New Jersey facing unprecedented threats from flooding and severe weather due to climate change, the Murphy Administration is making $45 million in low-interest loans available to county and municipal governments as well as private owners of dams for projects that will ensure these structures properly protect lives and properties by complying with the state’s stringent dam safety standards.
The state is making $40 million in funding for dam rehabilitation projects available through the state’s Dam Restoration Loan Program. Another $5 million is provided through the Inland Waters Loan Program, which funds flood-mitigation projects such as dredging and stream restoration.
“New Jersey is committed to becoming more resilient in the face of unprecedented challenges from more frequent and intense weather and flooding,” said Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette. “This funding will enable private and municipal dam owners to undertake environmental infrastructure projects that provide more spillway capacity that is critical to public safety, especially as rainfall events continue to become more severe due to our changing climate.”
To qualify, a project must be undertaken by a county or municipal government or related agency. Projects by private dam owners are required to have a county or municipal government agree to be a co-applicant. The application deadline is Dec. 30. For more information on applying for loans and the DEP’s Bureau of Dam Safety, visit www.nj.gov/dep/damsafety/
In New Jersey, most dams have been built for recreational and/or water supply purposes. Few are built strictly for flood control. It is the responsibility of the owners of dams to ensure that they are maintained and operated safely, in accordance with state standards. The loans being made available now are to assist owners of dams that are rated as being in “fair” or “poor” condition and in need of structural safety improvements.
New Jersey is one of the few states to provide funding for the upgrade and maintenance of dams through periodic bond acts that ensure a stable source of funding for these types of projects. Over the decades, the DEP has provided nearly $180 million in funding under the two bond programs. The last round of funding occurred in 2017.
The provision requiring county or municipal governments to be a co-applicant for private projects enables the respective governing body to levy taxes on owners should the dam owner default on the loan. The loans are made available periodically as funding becomes available as previous loans are repaid.
New Jersey rates dams related to potential for property damage and/or loss of life should the dam fail:
• Class I (high hazard): Failure may result in the loss of life and/or extensive property damage.
• Class II (significant hazard): Failure may result in significant property damage, but loss of life is not envisioned.
• Class III and smaller Class IV (low hazard): Failure not expected to result in loss of life or significant property damage.
In addition, the DEP has the following rating system for current dam safety conditions:
• Satisfactory: No existing or potential dam safety deficiencies are recognized. Acceptable performance is expected under all applicable loading conditions (static, hydrologic, seismic) in accordance with the applicable regulatory criteria. Minor maintenance items may be required.
• Fair: Acceptable performance is expected under all required loading conditions (static, hydrologic, seismic) in accordance with the applicable dam safety regulatory criteria. Minor deficiencies may exist that require remedial action and/or secondary studies or investigations.
• Poor: A dam safety deficiency is recognized for any required loading condition (static, hydrologic, seismic) in accordance with the applicable dam safety regulatory criteria. Remedial action is necessary. Poor also applies when further critical studies or investigations are needed to identify any potential dam safety deficiencies.
• Unsatisfactory: Considered unsafe. A dam safety deficiency is recognized that requires immediate or emergency remedial action for problem resolution. Reservoir restrictions may be necessary.
The DEP requires that high and significant hazard dams be inspected every two years - annually for larger dams – and that measures are taken to ensure their safety. Bringing them up to current design standards usually requires a combination of modifications to the spillway and/or raising or “armoring” the earthen embankments that typically flank spillways. Armoring can include placement of roller-compacted concrete or pouring of concrete to ensure that embankments do not wash away and collapse in the event of overtopping.
For more information on steps the state is taking to address climate change, including the state’s first Climate Change Resilience Strategy and first Scientific Report on Climate Change, visit www.nj.gov/dep/climatechange/
Follow Commissioner LaTourette on Twitter and Instagram @shawnlatur and follow the DEP on Twitter @NewJerseyDEP
DEP Photo/Lake Solitude Dam rehabilitation, 2012, High Bridge