PART 2: Before Drastic Changes - Manville's Resilient Communities Grant Application

PART 2: Before Drastic Changes - Manville's Resilient Communities Grant Application

By Manville.Today
May 12, 2024

We can all agree, Manville floods. We had Floyd in 1999, Irene in 2011, and Ida remnants in 2021. All 3 caused severe flooding in Manville, especially Ida, which was supposed to only be remnants, and the potential for flooding was not communicated properly.

We can also all agree on the second aspect, Manville needs help. Manville needs help to try and put things in place to help mitigate flooding, and as a town we should be making sure that those homes being bought out by Blue Acres aren't going to negatively impact the tax-base (you) over the long-term.

Manville needs to find ways to replace these lost tax ratables with new ones. And the elephant in the room is Rustic Mall. We'll get into detail on the bad ideas being put forth for Rustic Mall in the next part of this series. You will not want to miss what they want to do now.

For this article, we're going to focus on Manville applying for New Jersey's Resilient Communities Program grant, and how the initial application is significantly different than what they're presenting now.

Back in November 2023, a notice was put into the newspapers about a special public hearing titled: "Resilient Communities Program Grant 2023: Systematic Overhaul of Stormwater Programs for Manville". Manville was going to apply for New Jersey's "RCP Grant" which can award Manville up to 5 million dollars for Manville to "become more resilient to current and future flood-related natural hazards." 11 people attended the meeting.

The grant application had 3 components to it: Response, Retain, and Reconstruct.

The Response part of the grant focuses on automating the siren activation in Manville. Remember how during Ida, the sirens didn't sound, and the reverse-911 message didn't go out until midnight? They are blaming this on the fact that the sirens are manually activated, however there were other reasons why the alerts were delayed.

The application goes on to detail that the sirens would be automated with the assistance of new flood gauges and flow detection sensors placed in strategic locations along the Raritan and Millstone Rivers, and Royce Brook. These sensors would not only detect the height of the water bodies, but also detect how quickly they are flowing. Once specific thresholds are met, the sirens would be automatically activated.

The second part of the application is Retain. This part details how Manville would set up a Stormwater Utility Program. It would be a management facility that is constructed that will prevent excess runoff from ever reaching the Raritan and Millstone rivers. It would help in reducing flooding risks.

One location was already selected, Weston Elementary School. Other locations would have been considered, after a study took place to see where else a stormwater management facility should be constructed at. The RCP Grant would help the initial construction, and the study would help for determining future stormwater basin projects.

The final part of the grant application is Reconstruct. This part would use grant funds to assist in raising homes, and get around the "Manville Exclusion Zone" that recently had the State of NJ preventing residents from using funding to raise their homes, unless they paid for it themselves.

Manville's housing plan element would also need to be updated. They would conduct a "Critical Loss Assessment" to see how the continuance of buying out homes would affect the rest of Manville's taxpayers. It would assist Manville in reviewing possible lots for redevelopment, in order to replace those ratables lost by the buyouts.

It was also explained how there were unusual demographics within Lost Valley, namely that it was the highest personal income area in Manville. During the meeting, they cited that it's possible that due to a large minority population, some residents did not participate in the 2020 census.

All this sounds relatively benign. We can agree that focusing on responding to flooding through automated sirens and enhanced river monitoring can have a positive impact to get residents out of harm's way before major flooding is in progress.

We can also agree that stormwater management would help in reducing potential flooding in high-risk areas, by retaining storm water in retention ponds and other methods, and releasing the water at a later time when the flooding subsides.

We can finally agree also on the third component of reconstruct. Residents should be afforded the opportunity to raise their homes without paying for it out of pocket. While it's true some residents will have to be bought out due to their specific location in regard to flooding, it makes sense that those in less-risk areas should be permitted to raise their home. It doesn’t make sense to have a blanket "buy out" for any home that might flood. Just because one specific area has drastic flooding problems, doesn't mean that this should be applied across the board.

The original Resilient Communities Program grant application didn't have anything controversial or out of the ordinary in it. It appeared to be benign, that the 14-day public comment period following the meeting had only 2 responses. (one of which was the Mayor)

But come February, the grant application would be resubmitted. And it would be a huge, drastic, revision to the initial application. The public had no idea what was about to take place.

According to our sources, the State of NJ rejected the initial grant application. During the Council Meeting presentation on February 26th, the engineer presenting the "revised" plans stated that the original plan was "too ambitious" and not a "singular project". This is what caused Manville to drastically revise their application.

In our opinion, the public should have been informed, and the State of NJ should have required a new hearing (with proper public notice, not thrown into an agenda that the normal resident wouldn't understand the block and lot numbers of property) and fresh 14-day public comment period, covering these major changes. We will be covering the revised application in great detail. Stay tuned.