Coastal Resiliency Plan Missing Urgency and Action

Trenton, NJ: NJ Sierra Club release – Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner McCabe announced a forthcoming Coastal Resilience Plan from the department. The announcement was made today during the during the Coastal Resilience Summit at Monmouth University. The plan is meant to be “a blueprint for protection of property, lives, infrastructure and natural environments by guiding policies, regulations, resources and funding.” The DEP will be conducting stakeholder outreach over the next year, which includes the launching of their new website on the Plan. The plan also includes grants of up to $200,000 each for four regional planning teams (Jersey City, Middlesex County, Long Beach Island, and Ventnor).

“The DEP is announcing a planning process while New Jersey sees the affects of climate change on a daily basis. While the agency plans, the state floods. It’s important that the DEP is moving forward with coastal resiliency, but New Jersey still has a long way to go. We are still the only state in the region without a Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Plan. We are still developing and granting permits under Christie-era regulations that don’t protect against climate change or storm impacts. We must be more proactive in order to be more resilient. This Coastal Resilience Plan is a good first start to protect New Jersey from climate impacts,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Storms are getting worse but there doesn’t seem to be a sense of urgencyThe U.N. just released a report on irreversible climate damage by 2040 but we’re still kicking the can down the road. There are immediate steps we must be taking to address sea level rise and climate change.”

Sea level rise has caused some of our land to sink and salt water intrusion into our groundwater. Rutgers predicts that the coast will see a 1 ft. increase in sea level by 2050 and that is up to 3 ft. with ebb and flow. We’re now 17 times more likely to be hit with a major storm surge over the next century. We have so many low-lying and vulnerable areas along the coast and in places like Jersey City and Perth Amboy that would be especially at risk.

We’re not stronger than the next storm and we can’t wait a couple years to become so. With the sixth anniversary if Sandy, we’re seeing more extreme weather events without enough preparations. We’ve been delayed under Christie for eight years, so the Murphy Administration must act quickly to reduce our vulnerability to climate impacts. While planning, they can take immediate actions to make New Jersey more resilient. Murphy can create a cabinet level committee to coordinate all agencies in coastal resiliency and reducing greenhouse gasses. This includes updating regulations, doing hazard planning, and buying out flood-prone properties,” said Jeff Tittel. “New Jersey is not using the best possible data to update our maps and coastal development planning. Without up-to-date science, we can’t elevate to proper heights or predict sea level rise correctly.”

The Christie Administration left New Jersey with many weakened rules and regulations that will exacerbate the affects of climate change, sea level rise, and flooding. Under the new CAFRA rules, places like Mystic Island and Manahawkin are targeted as high-density development areas despite going underwater. The weakened Water Quality Management Planning rules allow sewer extensions and high-density development in many coastal and inland flood-prone areas. The Flood Hazard rules have also been weakened to put more people in harm’s way when it comes to flooding while removing key protections for important waterways.

“With storms getting worse, it is critical that the Murphy Administration reverse Christie’s rollbacks to prevent future flooding near our coast and put in place stronger protections. They need get rid of weakened versions of important water rules like the Flood Hazard Rules, Water Quality Management and Planning Rules, CAFRA, Wetlands, and Stormwater Management Rules,” said Jeff Tittel. “These rules must be changed because they do not strengthen protections, encourage more regional planning, address climate change or sea level rise, and they do not include programs for adaptation or mitigation.”

We need to be taking a multi-state approach to tackling sea level rise and climate change. This should include holistic solutions including flood storage. We need to be reducing greenhouse gasses and protecting our coastal ecosystems with natural features, not building concrete walls that only redirect the flooding problem while causing other issues. When we rebuild we need to not only rebuild more resiliently, we need to use it as a way to fix problems of the past such as implementing green building codes, energy efficiency standards and retrofitting stormwater systems that do not work.

“With the Anniversary of Sandy coming up and recent storms creating new damage, our state is still dragging our feet. New Jersey must continue to prepare coastal resiliency for increased climate impacts. These extreme weather events are happening way too often and with more frequency. At the same time, we’ve seen increased development in flood-prone areas and rollbacks of important waterway protections under the past eight years of Governor Christie. We need the Murphy Administration to restore stronger protections for floodplains, waterways, and wetlands to reduce flooding. We also need to stop proposed large development in these areas that lead to increased flooding and pollution,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Nature brings the rains but man’s policy makes them worse; whether it’s overdevelopment in floodplain areas or exasperating climate change and sea level rise.”