Planting trees on city streets, restoring coastal marshes and building buffers against sea level rise are among the natural measures New Jersey is investing in now to combat the effects of climate change.
Grants totaling $24.3 million to assist local governments and conservation organizations in such efforts the first under the new Natural Climate Solutions Grants Program. The program is designed to achieve carbon “sequestration,” the natural process of sequestering carbon in trees or in plant-derived masses in the soil. This can be helped by methods such as planting trees in cities or previously forested areas, or protecting coastal ecosystems, where marshes and seagrass meadows store more carbon than forests on land.
New Jersey is one of the first states to create such a grant program to mitigate the effects of climate change by improving natural sites and resources such as parks, forests and wetlands, according to the DEP.
“New Jersey will avoid the worst effects of climate change not only by reducing emissions of climate pollutants, but also by investing in natural solutions that sequester the carbon causing the extreme heat and floods that repeatedly hit our communities.” said Sean Latourette, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, at a ceremony in Trenton last week.
Capture tons of carbon
The agency estimates that the 14 projects, from Newark to Atlantic City to the Delaware Bay Coast, will collectively sequester more than 32,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2050, helping the state meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from at the level of 2006 until 2050. .
One recipient is the New Jersey-based American Coastal Society, which received nearly $5 million to restore 19.5 acres of tidal flats in Cumberland County where the Morris River enters Delaware Bay. The Morris Estuary Marsh Restoration Project will create up to 3,500 feet of natural breakwaters and oyster reefs that will protect approximately 4,300 feet of shoreline.
The society’s chief executive, Tim Dillingham, said tidal marshes sequester carbon as well as providing wildlife habitat and protecting coastlines from waves expected to become more violent as seas rise and storms intensify with climate change.
“New Jersey is ground zero for the effects of climate change, and harnessing the power of nature is the most effective response available to us,” Dillingham said in a statement.
The sea level at the Jersey Shore is expected to rise 0.5 to 1.1 feet between 2000 and 2030 and 0.9 to 2.1 feet by 2050, according to a 2019 Rutgers University forecast. The extent of future increases will depend on whether the global emissions reduction targets of the 2015 Paris Agreement are met, the Rutgers report said. Without significant reductions, seas onshore could rise 6.3 feet by 2100.
Where does the money come from
Inland, New Jersey is bracing for larger, more frequent storms like Tropical Storm Ida, which caused record flooding in many cities in September 2021. The DEP is expected to be completed in the first quarter of this year the rule it would raise the minimum height of new buildings by 2 feet in flood-prone areas.
In Trenton, city officials will partner with the New Jersey Conservancy to plant 1,000 trees in areas with few or no trees.
The money for the awards comes from New Jersey’s membership revenue Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, in which 12 eastern states are charging fossil fuel power generators with carbon emission reduction permits in order to incentivize them to reduce their emissions. DEP said the grants will for the first time use revenue from the initiative to fund programs to sequester so-called blue carbon, which is captured by oceans and coastal ecosystems, and green carbon, which is stored in plants.
The new grants include nearly $5 million more for marsh restoration at the Edwin B. Forsyth National Wildlife Refuge in Brick Township, Ocean County, where a tidal marsh will be raised with 120,000 cubic yards of dredged sediment on 95 acres to prevent the marsh from flooding. Vegetation will be planted in previously unplanted areas for marsh development, the DEP said.
In Newark, the city received nearly $1.3 million for its Newark Canopy Initiative, which will remove dry trees and plant 331 new ones in the five areas most in need of improved tree canopies.
Another tree planting project will be held in Atlantic City. $759,000 was awarded to plant 180 trees along 13 blocks of Atlantic Avenue to increase shade and reduce the need for air conditioning, improve air quality and reduce storm runoff in the congested community.
“New Jersey is ground zero for the effects of climate change, and harnessing the power of nature is the most effective response available to us.” — Tim Dilling
“These grants provide real opportunities for our environmental justice communities to take significant steps toward climate resilience,” said Candice Perry, director of the Environmental Justice Office at the Department of Environmental Protection. “While each community has different needs and ways of achieving its goals, each one shares a strong desire to help improve the quality of life for its residents.”
In Trenton, city officials will partner with the New Jersey Conservancy to plant 1,000 trees in areas with few or no trees. The project, called Throwin’ Shade – Greening the Capital, received a grant of nearly $1.4 million and aims to capture carbon, reduce the urban heat island effect and reduce stormwater runoff.
“We believe this project has the potential to transform our capital city, where residents are experiencing disproportionate impacts from climate change,” said Jay Watson, co-executive director of the foundation. “Urban areas deal with the heat island effect, which causes higher ambient temperatures than suburban and rural areas.”
And on 45 acres of forest in Princeton, contractors and volunteers will remove invasive species and plant “thousands” of native trees as part of a $552,000 DEP grant.
“We are always looking for opportunities to reduce our overall carbon footprint,” said the Princeton board member Eva Niedergang. “Together with our non-profit partners at Friends of Princeton Open Space, we are excited to have the opportunity to restore the Northern Forest of Community Park.”