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Monmouth Receives Federal Funds to Improve Coastal Resilience in Naval Weapons Station Earle and Socially Vulnerable N.J. Communities

The Monmouth University Urban Coast Institute (UCI) will receive federal funding for two projects that bolster resilience to extreme coastal storm and flooding events in Naval Weapon Station (NWS) Earle and its surrounding communities and help economically disadvantaged New Jersey municipalities improve their resilience and readiness for climate threats. The Community Project Funding was included in the $1.5 trillion fiscal year 2022 government appropriations bill signed into law in March.

NWS Earle
A military vessel docked at the Naval Weapons Station Earle pier.

Rep. Frank Pallone secured $450,000 as part of the Department of Defense (DOD) appropriations for the NWS Earle project, which will be led by UCI Associate Director and New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium Resilient Communities and Economies Specialist Thomas Herrington. The project will build upon a 2019 Raritan/Sandy Hook Bay Coastal Resilience Planning Study conducted by Monmouth County and the DOD that created 11 concept plans for projects that would improve resilience in and around NWS Earle, including steps to address worsening bayfront erosion that could jeopardize the long-term operation and safety of the installation’s pier, facilities, and navigational channels.

The funding will advance one or more of the highest-priority projects through the design and engineering phases needed to make them shovel-ready. The project team is expected to include Monmouth University faculty and students, NWS Earle, and other partners involved in the 2019 study.

“We know the climate crisis is here and that sea level rise threatens the Jersey Shore and coastal communities across the country,” Pallone said. “This is exactly why I fought for federal funding to strengthen coastal resilience along the Shore, including the Bayshore communities, so that we can protect them from major weather events and flooding. This funding will enable cutting-edge research at Monmouth University to help us better understand how we can bolster our state’s defense against the effects of the climate crisis. I’m grateful for the work our scientists and engineers are doing to advance this important cause and look forward to seeing their conclusions.”

The second project, secured by Sen. Cory Booker and supported by Sen. Robert Menendez, will receive $460,000 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the UCI to partner with local leaders and stakeholders in overburdened communities and planning and resource experts to produce climate adaptation plans that foster equitable community resilience. Herrington will lead a project team that works with selected municipalities from Atlantic, Camden, Cumberland, Essex, Middlesex, and Union counties that express interest in receiving planning assistance.

The project will pilot methods for engaging stakeholders in socially vulnerable communities, who are often difficult to reach in planning processes. To overcome these barriers, the team will use collaborative approaches that aid in engaging all community members, including providing compensation for participants’ time and scheduling meetings at hours favored by residents. The community-centric engagement and planning process will develop resilience and adaption plans that can serve as a model for disadvantaged and environmental justice communities throughout the state.

“Research has shown that communities of color and those with limited economic means have borne a disproportionate share of the brunt of coastal hazards caused by climate change, such as sea level rise and chronic flooding,” Herrington said. “This project will ensure that the participating towns have access to the resources they need to plan for the future and provide residents a greater voice in the process.”

“The fact that climate change disproportionately impacts Black and Brown communities as well as underserved populations must be taken into account as we work to build more resilient infrastructure,” Booker said. “This project from Monmouth University will foster collaboration between researchers and environmental justice communities to develop future plans to mitigate the effects of climate change. I was proud to support the federal funding that made this initiative possible and look forward to seeing the results it produces.”

“At Monmouth, we feel a strong responsibility to be a force for positive economic, cultural, and social development in our communities. Higher education institutions should seek ways to partner with other local enterprises and social service organizations to improve communities, and these two projects exemplify this commitment perfectly,” Monmouth University President Patrick Leahy said. “We are extremely grateful for the confidence in our capacity for delivering science-based solutions to resiliency issues that affect the safety and quality of life of our neighbors.”

The federally funded projects are being managed through the UCI’s Coastal Community Resilience Initiative (CCRI). The CCRI focuses on providing community resilience and planning support for disadvantaged communities, promoting the development of natural features and green infrastructure to improve the resilience of communities and ecosystems, and working with other Monmouth University partners and outside experts to advance elements of the New Jersey Coastal Resilience Plan.