New Jersey Champions Natural Solutions

NJ Resilient Coastlines Initiative Champions Natural Solutions for Community Challenges

Restoration Explorer Tool Gives Coastal Municipalities “Green” Planning Power to Address Flooding, Erosion

New Jersey is not immune to our planet’s changing weather, including stronger, more frequent storms, and rising sea levels, and Superstorm Sandy reminded us of this in a dramatic way. How would, or how did, your town fare in the rain, winds and flooding of more frequent coastal storms?

With funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Coastal Resilience Networks (CRest) Program, local conservation partners have come together to give New Jersey’s coastal communities natural options to reduce shoreline erosion and maximize the ability of marshes to reduce flooding to communities.

Installation of a bio-log living shore in Maurice River, NJ. Bio-logs are used to stabilize shorelines or stream banks and prevent further erosion. Once vegetation has taken over (either planted or naturally recruited) a living shoreline will be achieved.

Installation of a bio-log living shore in Maurice River, NJ. Bio-logs are used to stabilize shorelines or stream banks and prevent further erosion. Once vegetation has taken over (either planted or naturally recruited) a living shoreline will be achieved.

The Nature Conservancy, Rutgers University, Stevens Institute of Technology, American Littoral Society, Barnegat Partnership and Partnership for the Delaware Estuary have formed the NJ Resilient Coastlines Initiative, to identify and prioritize beneficial coastal restoration and enhancement projects across New Jersey. The group’s aim is to improve the health of our state’s coastal habitats as a way to reduce storm-related flooding, provide increased recreational opportunities and improve water quality.

To get things started, the NJ Resilient Coastlines Initiative has created the New Jersey Restoration Explorer as part of Coastal Resilience, an online decision support tool that provides communities with a simple way to visualize where beneficial coastal restoration and enhancements projects are most appropriate based on ecological and engineering data. Such restoration projects could include bio-log living shorelines, oyster reefs, beach restorations or other natural features.  The tool is designed to facilitate greater public involvement in coastal resiliency planning.

“Natural habitats such as coastal wetlands are increasingly appreciated for their ability to buffer flooding during big storms, along with their many other benefits to people and ecology,” said Danielle Kreeger, Director of Science, of Partnership for the Delaware Estuary. “The Restoration Explorer tool will provide a helpful starting point for coastal communities and resource managers interested in sustaining and rebuilding these critical habitats by matching appropriate tactics with local conditions.”

The Nature Conservancy’s project in the South Cape May Meadows Preserve in 2007, which included building dunes, reconnecting a historic freshwater stream, planting native vegetation and installing a water control system, is one example in which natural restoration has provided measurable benefits to surrounding communities. An analysis showed that average storm surge flooding damage in nearby towns was reduced from $143,713 per storm before the restoration to $3,713 per storm after the restoration.

According to Patty Doerr, Director of Coastal and Marine Programs for The Nature Conservancy’s New Jersey chapter, “South Cape May Meadows is a real success story that proves nature can be a big part of the solution for the challenges many coastal communities are facing. We’re estimating that Cape May Point will save $9.6 million in avoided flooding costs over the next 50 years as a direct result of the natural features we reinvigorated.” She added, “The Restoration Explorer will provide conservation groups and local governments all along New Jersey’s coastline with the insights and data to determine where and how they can best use nature to solve some of problems they are dealing with, like flooding or erosion.”

Alek Modjeski, Habitat Restoration Program Director for the American Littoral Society, is equally excited about the Restoration Explorer’s possibilities. “The tool, along with our interaction with municipal and community leaders, has solidified positive relationships, and it has also provided an avenue for us to easily investigate and introduce more resilient, nature-based restorations that are both doable and publicly accepted.”

“The Nature Conservancy’s Restoration Explorer will help residents and community officials throughout New Jersey to identify opportunities for using nature to increase the resilience of their coastal communities,” said Jeff Payne, Acting Director of NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management.  “As one of six resilience projects that our office funded in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, we’re glad we could help bring this project to life.”

NJ Resilient Coastlines Initiative partners will be working this fall and winter with coastal communities across the state to identify conceptual coastal restoration projects, provide permitting guidance, inform design considerations and identify potential funding sources.

Communities interested in using the Restoration Explorer tool should contact Tom Flynn, Coastal Resilience Coordinator with The Nature Conservancy, at thomas.flynn@tnc.org.

For more information on coastal resilience visit www.coastalresilience.org or follow us on Twitter at @CoastResilience.

In addition to the main partners of the NJ Resilient Coastlines Initiative, other collaborators include NJ DEP’s Office of Coastal and Land Use Planning, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, NY/NJ Baykeeper, Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge and Cape May National Wildlife Refuge.