Inland Flood Protection and Coastal Zone
Flooding remains a major policy concern in New Jersey and will receive significant focus in 2024. After the remnants of Tropical Storm Ida caused major flooding in New Jersey in September 2021, the state’s flood related regulatory process was accelerated, resulting in the promulgation of an Inland Flood Protection rule in 2022 as an emergency rule intended to take effect immediately. Although the emergency rule-making process ultimately did not occur, NJDEP published a set of new rules amending the Stormwater Management rules (N.J.A.C. 7:8) and the Flood Hazard Area Control Act rules (N.J.A.C. 7:13), known as the Inland Flood Protection Rule, for public comment on December 5, 2022, which were adopted on June 2, 2023, and became effective on July 17, 2023.
At the core of the new Inland Flood Protection Rule is the recognition that existing flood mapping based on historical data is an inadequate predictor of future flooding and that flooding will become increasingly severe during the 50 to 100-year useful life of any structure built today. Accordingly, under the new rule, construction projects using existing flood mapping will be required to design to the higher of two feet above existing NJDEP flood maps or three feet above existing FEMA flood maps. These rules will apply wherever a permit or authorization is required for the project. Development and infrastructure projects seeking approvals in 2024 will need to be cognizant of these new requirements.
New Jersey’s State Floodplain Administrator, Vincent Mazzei, advised late last year that the flood hazard rules applicable to Coastal Zone Flooding are likely to be published in the first quarter of 2024. These rules are expected to focus on flood impacts from rising sea levels and inundation. Coastal Zone flood mapping taking into account anticipated changes in sea level are already publicly available and highlight the significant threat that NJDEP seeks to confront through these new rules.
On July 3 2023, New Jersey also enacted the Flood Risk Notification Law (P.L., Chapter 93), which requires sellers of real property and landlords to make disclosures about flood risks.
Flooding and mitigating risks from flooding will continue to be a focus in New Jersey as regulations are developed to implement the Flood Risk Notification Law, as the Coastal Zone Flooding regulations are proposed, and as the newly adopted Inland Flood Protection Rule begins to be implemented. Watch for flooding to drive policy discussions, and project approvals in 2024 and the years to come.