New Jersey has contracted with six universities and colleges to study ways the state can reduce flood risks and potential damage from storm surges and sea level rise.

The Department of Environmental Protection has approved 10 projects, worth a total of $1.3 million, for schools that include Rutgers University, Stevens Institute of Technology, Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Researchers from each school will study key areas prone to coastal flooding and help find ideas for reducing future risks, according to a news release.

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"These are the kinds of things some people have been critical of us not doing, and we think using the universities and tapping into their talent will give us quite a leg up on moving forward on this," said Larry Ragonese, DEP spokesman.

The contracts include $119,000 for Rutgers University experts to examine flood vulnerability along the Cumberland County bayshore. Another project, also contracted with Rutgers University, will help lay out how to rebuild infrastructure in the short- and long-term to withstand changing sea level due to climate change, according to the contract.

In Cumberland and Salem counties, Rutgers University's School of Engineering and the Haskins Shellfish Lab will evaluate flood-prone areas near the Delaware Bay and identify potential solutions to reduce flooding issues, according to the contract. The project also will help find ways to ensure flood control infrastructure can handle sea level rise and extreme weather events.

Stockton College's Coastal Research Center received about $26,000 to study whether material dredged from channel maintenance can be used to restore degraded wetlands in Barnegat Bay, according to the contract.

The New Jersey Institute of Technology received $145,000 to take an inventory of certain natural resources in flood-prone areas of Barnegat Bay and in Hudson and Bergen counties. NJIT will then use that inventory to determine how those ecosystems, such as salt marshes, can improve flood protection. The study, according to the contract, will consider short- and long-term problems due to climate change and sea level rise.

Research from the projects also will be submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to be included in its wide-sweeping assessment of the coastline affected by Hurricane Sandy. That report is expected to be released in January 2015. Many of the New Jersey projects will include community and resident input through public forums.

Ragonese said the state is funding all of the projects.

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Follow Sarah Watson on Twitter @acpresssarah

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