Public Input on Ocean County’s Long Term Community Recovery Plan Wraps Up
Preliminary ideas for Ocean County’s Long Term Community Recovery Plan have received a mostly favorable response, following the final meetings last week in Toms River and Stafford Townships.
Philadelphia-based engineering Firm Michael Baker Jr., Incorporated has been logging suggestions since December and will have a draft ready for review by the end of the month online at www.oceancountylongtermrecovery.com, said Sarah Bowen, the firm’s Planning Department Manager.
The group has been working with the Ocean County Planning Department and Together North Jersey to come up with ways of bouncing back more quickly from future disasters and improving resiliency during future disasters, whether it be another storm like Sandy or an incident like the recent brush fires.
Seaside Heights Councilman Tony Vaz attended the meetings and said he welcomes a structured plan, “They talked about storm drainage and bay and so forth. I think this is imperative for our community in Seaside Heights.”
Carol Alweather with Georgian Court University said the Lakewood institution has been trying to stay active in the plan, “We are interested in moving forward to become perhaps a temporary shelter.” She said she has done all the FEMA work and mitigation grant applications for the University.
Fred Bekiarian, Secretary of the Berkeley Township Waterways Advisory Commission wanted to draw attention to a recent study showing a projected two-foot rise in sea water by 2050. “One of our concerns as we plan for the future is what do we do about rising seas levels and what is that going to do to our communities: It’s going to innundate wetlands and it’s going to bring our shorelines in closer.” He stressed, “That has got to be a major concern for every waterfront community in the county or in the state.”
Lisa AuerMuller, a watershed coordinator with the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve, agreed flooding and erosional issues are priorities, but added, “It’s not just about flooding issues. We also need to think about economics and social issues. So, a plan that looks at that diversity of issues I think is really important.”
William Welch, Safety/Security Officer with the Ocean County Utilities Authority said the plan needed to be pro-active and take ten to 20 years down the road into consideration. “The biggest thing I think is that they are starting to do something and the new plan seems to have pro-active measures, which I think is the best way to go,” he said. “It’s a little off-track, but with the Sandy recovery, I think they should think about another resevoir in the area,” said Welch.
South Toms River Deputy Coordinator of Emergency Management, William Gleason, thinks the suggestions so far as excellent, “It’s long overdue for Ocean County and it will be some new projects to mitigate disasters and stuff throughout the County.”
Overall response to the ideas proposed so far were favorable. The public will be able to comment on the draft when it’s released later this month.
The public will get to make suggestions to Ocean County’s Long-Term Community Recovery Plan during two final sessions being held in Toms River and Stafford Townships on Tuesday, April 29. The Philadelphia-based engineering firm Michael Baker Jr., Incorporated has been working with the County Planning Department and Together North Jersey since December to come up with ways of bouncing back more quickly from future disasters said Sarah Bowen, the firm’s Planning Department Manager.
“There’s a lot of different initiatives underway in Ocean County and we want to recognize what the county is already doing to help recover from Hurricane Sandy and then also bring together additional resources that could meet needs that haven’t been met yet or that need different funding sources because the first funding source didn’t work out” said Bowen.
Some of the ideas already suggested from previous community meetings with stakeholders from various, different groups already operating in Ocean County and representatives from the different municipalities, involve ways improving housing, including rebuilding homes and making them safer, improving the economy and attracting tourists, and helping the environment. “So, if we really look at the health of the bay and the ocean and the systems that protect those resources and then also protect the homes along those areas, we can really make a more sustainable County and infrastructure,” Bowen said.
Bowen said they hope to have a draft plan ready for review by the end of May and a final version for the County in June.
Tuesday’s public meetings are being held in the northern and southern portions of the County. The first session will take place from 10 a.m. to Noon at the Ocean County Library, Mancini Hall, 101 Washington Street in Toms River. The other will be held from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Stafford Township Municipal Building’s Council Meeting Room, 206 East Bay Avenue.
More information about the plan can be found at www.oceancountylongtermrecoveryplan.com
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