Sierra Club Hosts Hurricane Sandy Anniversary Town Hall:

Are We Stronger Than the Next Storm?

Tonight in Brick, the New Jersey Sierra Club is holding a town hall to commemorate the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. Citizens and neighbors will hear from panelists, experts, and people impacted by Sandy on how it has changed our environment. We will discuss the climate and environmental impacts along the shore and in places like Barnegat Bay. We will consider our state’s current policies and planning and whether we’ll be strong enough for the next storm. The panelist included New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel, award-winning journalist Kirk Moore, Executive Director of Save Barnegat Bay Britta Wenzel, and Director of the New Jersey Organizing Project Amanda Devecka-Rinear. Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, released the following statement:

“As we remember Hurricane Sandy and all the damage that was done to our homes and communities and the impacts it has had on our families that we are still dealing with. Many people are still struggling to rebuild and put their lives back together. Hurricane Sandy impacted so many people and communities. As we look forward, we need to also look back and see where we’ve been and where we are going. Even though there are good things happening along the coast and people are getting back into their homes, what will happen to our state when the next storm comes? Our concern is that not only has the state not learned from Sandy, but that these policies will leave us at risk during the next storm.”

“There are more people living in flood-zones but less and less protections for them. We have seen these things happen with our own eyes. Beaches are becoming submerged every time there is a high tide and fish who end up living in storm drains. We’re losing a football field length a year of marshes along the Delaware Bayshore. Barnegat Bay and Mystic Island are being over-developed. According to Rutgers, nine percent of New Jersey could disappear in 50 years. Despite the deteriorating condition of our coasts, the Christie Administration continues to deny climate change and keep building in at-risk coastal areas. With Christie’s policies, we won’t be stronger than the next storm.”

“Our coasts face a 1-3 ft. increase in sea level rise by 2050 and increase of super-storms like Sandy, yet the Christie Administration has failed to curb over-development and combat climate change and has rolled back laws that prohibit development in environmentally sensitive areas. The state has not even considered the most up-to-date studies from Rutgers and NOAA on sea level rise and incorporated flood mapping. Christie has ended or pulled back from many important programs as well. Christie has closed the Office of Climate Change, ended the DEP Coastal Program for Mitigation and Adaptation that addresses climate change and sea level rise, while blocking financing rules for offshore wind.”

“While New Jersey has been hit by flood after flood, the Governor has sided against the people of New Jersey to take care of land speculators and developers. This is not only outrageous, but it’s dangerous. Under the CAFRA rules, we can turn the coast into an urban area that has higher density than Manhattan Island and build commercial development behind sea walls. That means even though they were under water during Sandy, Mystic Island and Gandy’s Beach, which are designated as growth areas will be washed away during the next storm. What we need is stronger limits on impervious cover, natural systems restoration, and green building codes and green roofs. We need a buyout program along the coast or estuaries; we must look at regional planning and establish a Coastal Commission. If we do not come up with a better way to manage development at the shore, there may not be any shore for future generations.”

“Three years after Sandy, we still have a long laundry list of things the state has failed to work on. We have not updated FEMA maps for sea level rise, issued adaptation and hazard planning for sea level rise, incorporated energy efficiency and green building codes, bought out properties along the shore, or restored natural systems. We cannot rebuild the shore smarter or better if we do not address climate change. Sandy was supposed to be a wakeup call, but instead our state government has fallen asleep. We need to stop re-building in the same way and expecting a different result. We must learn from our mistakes and start planning ahead if we want to be stronger than the next storm.”