A map of flood zones in New Jersey shows a state covered in blue, revealing that many residents live in areas susceptible to flooding.
“You feel quite vulnerable looking at that map,” says Rutgers ecologist Brooke Maslo, “For sure.”
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection uses federal dollars to buy out the homeowners of some of those flood-prone properties. In most cases around the country, however, the buyout is the first and last step taken to guard against future floods.
“But what happens after that?” asks Maslo, from the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. “We come in and we say, ‘What do we have here? What’s possible?’ And so we reenvision these landscapes.”
Maslo and her team at Rutgers have created a detailed plan for Woodbridge, N.J., to address flooding caused by climate change and determine how bought-out properties should be used to protect surrounding neighborhoods. And the township is implementing that plan. So far 30 acres have been restored with plans in place to restore another 150 acres in the coming years. “That’s the thing I’m most proud of with this work… Woodbridge is ready and willing to take that challenge.”