Three seek federal buyout

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According to a presentation in front of Township Committee this week, three homeowners in flood prone areas in the township are interested in selling their properties under a federal program. The houses would be razed and the land returned to its natural state. Local officials asked about Bennys Landing, a small waterfront section at the end of a stretch of road leading from Middle Township High School. According to a presentation in front of Township Committee this week, three homeowners in flood prone areas in the township are interested in selling their properties under a federal program. The houses would be razed and the land returned to its natural state. Local officials asked about Bennys Landing, a small waterfront section at the end of a stretch of road leading from Middle Township High School. Committee hears plan that could restore flood plains to natural state

CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE – A flood plain easement plan Township Committee heard at its meeting on Monday could reduce ratables in the township, but increase open space in flood prone areas.

Beth Freiday, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told the committee during its work session from that three Bennys Landing homeowners had applied for the Emergency Watershed Protection Program, administered by the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Though the applications were too late for this round of funding, Freiday said the properties could be considered in the future.

Under the plan, Freiday said, residents of damage-prone, flood plain property can voluntarily sell their homes to the USFWS.

“The program helps people recover from a storm,” Freiday said. “They make a voluntary decision to get out of a property.”

If the home qualifies, the USFWS buys the property, removes any structures and restores the land to a natural state, Freiday said.

However, the USFWS can’t own the property, and must transfer ownership to a sponsor – preferably the township, she said.

Homes in flood plains must have been damaged by storms to qualify for the program, Freiday said.

After Hurricane Sandy swept through the area, Freiday said, the federal government set aside $180 million for the Emergency Watershed Protection Program. In the first year, Freiday said, the government spent $15 million buying properties damaged by Sandy, and restoring them to natural states.

Freiday said the expenditures for round two of the funding aren’t yet complete, but that there could be a third round.

“We’d like to spend the rest of the money in the second round, but we may not,” she said.

Freiday said there’s no cost to the township for the program.

Mayor Tim Donohue asked the biologist to provide the committee with a list of towns that have agreed to sponsor properties.

“I want to talk to others and understand more about the program,” Donohue said. “I also understand that we would be losing ratables.”

The mayor also asked what it would take to meaningfully restore the flood plain area at Bennys Landing, where a small circle of houses overlook Genesis Bay, a wide body of water behind Stone Harbor.

“If we’re looking at Bennys Landing,” Freiday said, “we could do it with the removal of all of the houses.”

With only three applicants, the restoration of the flood plain wouldn’t be complete, she said.

“But even if we get all of the houses on one side of the road, it could still be meaningful,” she said.


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