MANVILLE AND SOMERSET, NJ - The Borough of Manville is located in Somerset County in the northern region of New Jersey. Over the years, the Lost Valley neighborhood in Manville experienced repetitive flooding, dating back to Hurricane Doria in 1971. After Doria there were three subsequent severe storms, with Hurricane Floyd in September 1999 being the worst. Hurricane Floyd brought 11 inches of rain in 18 hours and water levels in Lost Valley reached 12 to 17 feet. Homes were devastated.
The Lost Valley neighborhood is so named because it is generally disconnected from the rest of the Borough. There are only two ways to enter: a tunnel under a railroad right-of-way at Kyle Street, and a bridge over the same railroad right-of-way at Bridge Street. The ranch-style family homes in Lost Valley were developed after World War II. Manville lies between the Raritan and Millstone rivers, with the former flowing into the latter. This convergence of rivers places the neighborhood in the middle of a floodplain. Prolonged heavy rainfalls cause Millstone River to overflow, which in turn cause Manville flooding events.
A buyout was suggested because the residents of Lost Valley were tired of the cleanup and costs every two to three years from flooding. When the opportunity presented itself, 400 residents applied for a buyout, but only homes that had substantial damage and were uninhabitable qualified for the offer. Ultimately, 37 homes were approved.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program provides funding to reduce losses and protect lives and property from future disaster damages. A grant, awarded in 1999 to Lost Valley, entailed buying out, demolishing, and replacing properties with a recreational park. Using the grant for a buyout eliminated significant neighborhood flood risk.
The 6.2 million dollar cost for the buyout project was funded by FEMA and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres Program. As a result of this mitigation investment, an open space is available for public recreational use and 37 families now live outside this flood prone area.