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Friday, 20 May 2016
Hamilton Proposing to Install Solar Farm in Floodplain

 Hamilton Proposing to Install Solar Farm in Floodplain


The residents of the Cornell Heights area, specifically Sweetbriar Ave, were in receipt of a notification this week. This notification focuses on the application for a NJDEP flood hazard area, Block 1581, Lot 11, to be developed into a solar farm on the flood plain.

The residents in the area are very concerned with this project. Currently today, residents have experienced extreme flooding in the area. This project has the potential to make a bad situation even worse. This will damage our homes beyond recognition during a flood.

Flood plains are nature's engineering achievement. No human flood-management expert could ever hope to control flood waters better. They are often an outstanding wildlife habitat, and they protect human habitat from expensive and heartrending disasters.

But to governments, flood plains are all about land elevations, flood-plain "management" and flood insurance. Logical land-use limitations are unthinkable because government knows its mantra policy well:   They will allow the dangers of intense development and attempt to engineer their way out of problems. That's irresponsible and just plain incomprehensible actions of leadership.

If the flood plain is to be destroyed the destroyer should offer to kick in some money to save a wetland habitat somewhere else in the township in the area. Our community is placed at great risk, losing its water filtration, wildlife habitat and flood protection, while another community gains from the use of the solar farm which is slated to power the sewer plant.

Currently today, the sewer plant utilizes 7Megs of power. The solar farm is slated to only manage 4Megs. Why is the township focused on such a project when the infrastructure the sewer system in the township is failing and ailing?  Who is paying for this project? Who is paying for the upkeep of the panels? Service costs, replacement of the panels? Is this the responsibility of the private developer? What advantage does this bring to the residents connecting it to the sewer plant?

To deliberately destroy the floodplain is unacceptable.  This past summer the township built a gun range on the other side of our development, destroying trees and wetlands.  They are also in the process of allowing another developer, American Metro Way, to add additional dwellings in an already overwhelmed ecosystem. They will also be destroying more trees with that development. This unbalanced give and take and give is leaving us with environmental chaos in the area.

If a developer decides that the cost of fill is less than the profit from increased densities in the flood plain, then the flood plain can be elevated to a "safe" level and the storm water "managed" with retention ponds. The most important cost of flood-plain development is the loss of its environmental functions.

Flood plains and accompanying wetlands provide erosion control and absorb flood waters. They also filter pollution and provide habitat for animal, plant and aquatic life.

Federal studies show an acre of flood-plain wetlands can store up to 1.6 million gallons of floodwater. Restoring rather than destroying the wetlands of flood plains can reduce damaging floods. Government knows the risks, and they take them at our peril. The plan is to destroy 20 acres of the floodplain with the solar farm. In order to install the solar panels in the ground they must use concrete. These concrete supports will destroy a vast amount of the floodplain. The existing vegetation that is left will be shielded by the panels, inevitably dieing. This has the potential to create significant issues when there is significant rain.

This area is a well known flood zone. It was only exasperated when the new bridge when in and they raised the bridge 21 inches. The first heavy rain we got my house flooded due to the fact the bridge no longer flooded but the slope that was created by the engineers drove the water to the residents homes. As a resident of Hamilton township it is my belief that this is reckless government and development must be stopped.

Undeveloped floodplain land provides many natural resources and functions of considerable economic, social, and environmental value. Nevertheless, these and other benefits are often overlooked when local land-use decisions are made. Floodplains often contain wetlands and other important ecological areas as part of a total functioning system that impacts directly on the quality of the local environment.

Many of the nation’s most prominent landscape characteristics, including many of our most valuable natural and cultural resources, are associated with floodplains. These resources include wetlands, fertile soils, rare and endangered plants and animals, and sites of archaeological and historical significance. Floodplains have been shaped, and continue to be shaped, by dynamic physical and biological processes driven by climate, the hydrologic cycle, erosion and deposition, extreme natural events, and other forces. The movement of water through ground and surface systems, floodplains, wetlands and watersheds is perhaps the greatest indicator of the interaction of natural processes in the environment.  Has there been a historical search done on the land to ensure that we are preserving the historical nature of the land?


These natural processes influence human activities and are, in turn, affected by our activities. They represent important natural functions and beneficial resources and provide both opportunities and limitations for particular uses and activities.


Traditionally, while much attention has been focused on the hazards associated with flooding and floodplains, less attention has been directed toward the natural and cultural resources of floodplains or to evaluation of the full social and economic returns from floodplain use.


In recent decades, the natural resources associated with floodplains – particularly wetlands – have been the subject of increased scientific study and management.


Surface water, ground water, floodplains, wetlands and other features do not function as separate and isolated components of the watershed, but rather as a single, integrated natural system. Disruption of any one part of this system can have long-term and far-reaching consequences on the functioning of the entire system. In the past, lack of understanding of the overall natural system and its component processes contributed to significant alteration of the natural functions of floodplains, and in many cases to the degradation and destruction of these resources.  These facts should not be taken lightly and we expect to know what has been done to ensure the public safety of the residents.


Floodplain resources, including wetlands and agricultural lands, are experiencing increasing pressure for use and development – for highways, for residential and commercial building sites, and for other urban uses. In response to these development pressures, knowledge and information regarding the natural resources, processes and functions of floodplains can contribute to assessments of the ecological, economic and social impacts on further floodplain development.


This knowledge and information can help to protect and better utilize the benefits and values these resources provide. Improved knowledge and information about the natural resources of floodplains can be used to differentiate between lands that should remain in their natural condition, lands that can accommodate certain uses but not others, and lands that are most suitable for development.


The natural and cultural values associated with floodplain resources can be categorized in a variety of ways. Floodplain values can be thought of in terms of environmental quality values such as fish and wildlife habitat and water quality. They can also be thought of in terms of socioeconomic values, which are more easily understood by some because these values provide either dollar savings (related to flood and storm damage protection, for example) or financial profit (related to increased production from floodplain use).


Floodplains that are relatively undisturbed (or have been restored to a nearly natural state) provide a wide range of benefits to both human and natural systems. These benefits take many forms: some are static conditions (such as providing aesthetic pleasure) and some are active processes (like filtering nutrients). There is some ambiguity over which of these benefits are properly termed “functions,” which are “resources,” and where the terms overlap. A fairly well accepted (but not necessarily comprehensive) list and descriptions follows. The resources and functions have been loosely grouped into three categories, and the categories have been labeled according to the primary recipient of the benefit or its relationship to a larger system. “Water resources” include those resources and functions of floodplains that are part of or provide a benefit to the hydrologic cycles

on the earth’s surface and sub-surface, including natural moderation of floods, water quality maintenance, and groundwater recharge.


“Biologic resources” are floodplain resources and functions that benefit large and diverse populations of plants and animals. “Societal resources” are floodplain resources and functions that directly benefit human society, including historical, archeological, scientific, recreational, and esthetic sites, in addition to sites generally highly productive for agriculture, aquaculture, and forestry where these uses are compatible with natural systems.


The characteristics of the floodplain and of flooding are closely interdependent. Floods shape floodplain topography and soils and influence ecology. In turn, the physical characteristics of the floodplain shape flood flows. Except in narrow, steep valleys and areas of coastal bluffs, floodplains provide a broad area to spread out and temporarily store floodwaters. This reduces flood peaks and velocities and the potential for erosion. Flood storage is particularly important in urbanizing areas where even small floods resulting from a 5- or 10-year storm can cause severe flood damage.


In their natural vegetated state, floodplains slow the rate at which the incoming overland flow reaches the main water body. Vegetation also reduces shoreline erosion. Allowing this solar farm to be built in this floodplain will destroy the residents homes the first big rain we get.  In the documents we were sent, there is no information demonstrating any analysis was done. An engineer was hired to perform some task, however, what really has been done to evaluate the long term effects of the installation of the solar farm?


Solar array project sites often encompass extensive areas, and it is economically desirable to minimize land costs. Upon the consideration of this site for a potential solar project, did the developer contact the Regional Flood Control District to learn of known floodplains including sheet flooding areas that impact the project site? Certain mapped FEMA zones require more detailed study prior to project design.

The solar panels I assume will be on frames, lifting them above any flood water and the transformer building would be sited outside the flood plain.  I would expect the Environment Agency to object to this application because it would lay on a flood plain. To take the approach, if they even did this, to look at maps from the county is not enough. They did this when they built the new bridge and after the opening of the bridge there were items missed (we got flooded) and it cost more to fix the mistakes they made.

I would expect that the developer have commissioned a flood risk specialist to study the impact of the plan on the flood plain and was liaising with the DEP and FEMA to make.

 It is my understanding that some renewable energy projects are exempt from local zoning, it’s important to strive to site a project in a way that respects local residents and community goals. This has never been the case in Hamilton.  They violate the Sunshine laws every chance they get, without repercussion.

The residents in the area are stating that in the event their homes gets flooded due to the installation of this solar farm, they will hold the DEP, the developer, the Township of Hamilton and all others involved, liable for all damages to their homes and contents.



Posted by tammyduffy at 9:24 PM EDT

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