Mayor announces initiatives on flooding, water and power

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Wednesday May 15, 2013, 

City of Hoboken

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Community: Mayor Zimmer Announces Infrastructure Initiatives to Address Flooding, Water & Power Systems

Mayor Dawn Zimmer was joined by officials from North Hudson Sewerage Authority and United Water today to announce major initiatives to upgrade Hoboken’s infrastructure and address flooding, water distribution, and power resiliency.

Mayor Zimmer announced a partnership with North Hudson Sewerage Authority (NHSA) to build Hoboken’s second wet weather flood pump in order to further alleviate Hoboken’s 200 year flooding problem. The City and NHSA will work together to apply for a low interest $9 million loan from the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust. The City would pay for and own the pump, while NHSA has agreed to pay for the engineering, permitting, loan application preparation, and operations and maintenance, a contribution estimated at nearly $5 million over 20 years. The pump, with a capacity of 50 million gallons per day, would further alleviate flooding in Western Hoboken.

The City has reached an agreement with United Water through which the water utility will pay for the costs of conducting a complete master plan of Hoboken’s water distribution infrastructure. The plan will provide a prioritized schedule for upgrading the City’s water distribution system. In order to fund these capital improvements, the City is also in the process of renegotiating the existing agreement with United Water – a 30 year agreement that was entered into in 1994 which did not provide any planning or funding for non-emergency infrastructure upgrades.

To improve the City’s resiliency to power outages, the City of Hoboken is entering into a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy, Sandia National Laboratories, and PSE&G to design an energy resilient “smart grid.” The design methodology uses advanced, smart grid technologies and distributed and renewable generation and storage resources as a way to improve the reliability, security, and resiliency of the electric grid. The City of Hoboken will be one of the first non-military applications of this methodology from Sandia National Laboratories.

Flooding remains one of Hoboken’s historic challenges. Parts of the city, which were previously tidal marshes, still lie below the level of the Hudson River at high tide. As a result, when strong storms occur at high tide, the water cannot drain into the river by gravity, and it backs up, flooding streets. To alleviate the flooding, the stormwater must either be prevented from entering the sewer system or pumped out more quickly than it enters.

The City is pursuing both approaches – through the installation of additional pumps and through “green” technologies to divert, capture and store stormwater. In addition to pursuing the installation of the second flood pump, the City is supporting the North Hudson Sewerage Authority’s Hazard Mitigation funding application for additional pumps. The City has also submitted its own grant applications for Hazard Mitigation funds to acquire land for three parks in western Hoboken. Hoboken was awarded a technical assistance grant to study the feasibility of building large underground detention basins under these parks to store stormwater runoff. Similarly, Mayor Zimmer has suggested to NJ Transit that the agency consider converting the Long Slip Canal just south of Hoboken Terminal into an additional stormwater detention system.

During Hurricane Sandy, Hoboken flooded because the storm surge caused the Hudson River to flow into the City from low lying areas in the south, including through the Long Slip Canal, and from the north. The City has applied for $44 million in Hazard Mitigation funding for a system of flood barriers, berms and gates at the north and south to protect the city from future tidal surges. The City is working to have its plan incorporated into the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regional study. If a flood protection plan receives the approval of the Army Corps and the City is designated a “Shaded X” area, property owners in that area will no longer be required to purchase flood insurance.

Hoboken was one of three recipients of a grant from Together North Jersey for technical assistance to develop a Green Infrastructure Strategic Plan. The plan will develop stormwater management and flood control strategies, strategize key updates to the aging water system, look for ways to improve the resiliency of transit infrastructure, and identify important steps to help plan for climate adaptation. Through the Planning Board and input from the public, the City is developing a sustainability plan (Green Building & Environmental Sustainability Plan Element of the Master Plan) that will provide guidance for stormwater management, utilities, infrastructure and other sustainability priorities.

In addition to applying for funding that would enable the City to create detention systems under newly purchased open space, the City is pursuing a variety of other green initiatives to address flooding. Hoboken was recently awarded a grant to install rain garden curb extensions to capture stormwater runoff and has incorporated rain gardens in designs of new parks. The City legalized the use of rain barrels in 2011 and has required the use of green roofs in redevelopment areas to minimize runoff. The Shade Tree Commission completed a pilot program to expand tree pits and install new street trees along Washington Street between 1stStreet and 2nd Street, setting standards for other property owners. The Commission will launch a program to encourage more property owners to install street trees, which play an important role in reducing stormwater runoff.

The City has applied for approximately $2 million in Hazard Mitigation grants to install permanent emergency backup generators at critical community facilities including the Hoboken Volunteer Ambulance Corps, City Hall, Fire Headquarters and stations, Police Headquarters, the Public Works Garage, Multi-Service Center, Wallace School (shelter), and radio repeaters for the Police and Fire Departments. The City strongly supports PSE&G’s proposal to consolidate Hoboken’s three substations into two and to elevate and protect the remaining two substations from flooding.

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