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Are There Any Grownups in the Room?

Gov. Christie Drunk On Springsteen and Snooki

 Time to Form A Coastal Commission To Plan For A Climate Changed Shore

“This is too important a place in the fabric of New Jersey’s culture to not rebuild it. I’ve never had any doubt in my mind that we’re going to rebuild it,” Christie said. “I do not intend to be the governor who presides over the idea that this is going to be gone. I refuse to accept that.” (Asbury Park Press 11/10/12)


[Update: 2/25/13 – We told you so! Asbury Park Press reports today:

Seaside Heights plans seawall with MTV funds

SEASIDE HEIGHTS — Snooki, Pauly D and the rest of the cast of “Jersey Shore” drew crowds and controversy over four summers in the borough, but their final act could leave the greatest impression.

The cast of the MTV hit reality show helped raise $1 million during a benefit broadcast in November.

Now, Seaside Heights officials want to use that money for a seawall that could protect the boardwalk where the gang partied and played until summer 2012, shortly before superstorm Sandy crashed into the real Jersey Shore.

We also told the Gov. that sea walls don’t work – end update]

And the Star Ledger called that a “sobering message“. Sober? The Governor is drunk on nostalgia.

Nostalgia will get you nowhere (“… that waitress I was seeing lost her desire for me...”)

There’s a time and a place for cheerleading and inspiration and all the Springsteen and Snooki Jersey Shore Photo-Op cultural bullshit.

But now, when expectations for a global warming driven future of the shore are forming, it’s time to Get Real.

So, are there any adults in the room? It’s way past the Good Governor’s bedtime.

Perhaps the legislature might want to stand up and be counted?

Because King Christie, enrthralled by his boyhood rapture, is taking some unilateral and significant steps right now – Star Ledger tells us :

Calling Sandy “our Katrina,” Christie said he would work to ensure New Jersey receives the same attention and federal support given to states along the Gulf Coast after the 2005 hurricane there. He said he planned to meet with his cabinet in the days ahead to map out a long-term strategy.

Do Senate President Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Oliver think that the Legislative branch and the people of the state have a seat at the table in developing  a “long term strategy” for the shore?

Or are they going to sit back and defer to Christie’s Cabinet meetings?

The Asbury Park Press makes very clear the emotions and vision driving the Governor:

There are certain iconic places that those of us who have lived here all our lives just know about and take for granted,” he said. “You look in here and you see the damage that’s done inside there. Does Madame Marie’s come back, or doesn’t it? And if it doesn’t, then it does affect the culture of the state. It’s a different thing. It affects our history and the way we look at ourselves. That’s why this rebuilding phase is going to have to be done really carefully and smartly and not in a rushed way.”

Do public policymakers and the people of the State think that science and responsible land use planning should play a role in shaping the future of the shore? Or how, as the Governor says, “we look at ourselves”?

Perhaps the Governor and Legislators and the public should ask DEP Commissioner Martin a few questions and read stuff like this, from DEP’s own “Coastal Community Vulnerability Assessment Protocol

The scientific community has arrived at a strong consensus that global climate change is occurring and resulting in changes to shoreline dynamics1. Climate change threatens to accelerate sea level rise and increase the frequency and intensity of coastal storms. As a result, citizens, development, and ecosystems will become more vulnerable to the impacts of coastal hazards, making it imperative to identify areas where special needs communities, vital public facilities and roads, and sensitive natural resources overlap areas of potential inundation. These issues need to be considered as New Jersey’s coastal communities plan to become more resilient.

Now is the time to discuss strategic retreat from high hazard coastal areas, develop a plan for adaptation to climate change, and get serious about accelerating an emergency transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Perhaps the best way to do that is via a Coastal Commission (a Highlands or Pinelands for the shore) to finally realize the vision of the 1973 CAFRA statute, which called for a “comprehensive environmental design strategy” for the coast.

Madam Marie’s and the Silverball Museum Arcade may be at the top of Governor Christie’s Agenda, but – borrowing from Patti Smithnot mine.

I prefer something along these lines.

[Update – I don’t want this important point by my friend Bill Neil to get lost in the comment section:

But this is not happening in an ideological and political vacuum: the Governor of NJ at the moment is a fan, big time of austerity and cutting the entitlements he doesn’t like.  So how do you pull that off – increasing entitlements at the riskiest of places – while going after Social Security and Medicaid – and you can fill in his NJ state favorites for me.

[Update #2: 11/11/12 – Let’s not forget this classic QOTD:

“I’m not afraid to listen to Bill Wolfe when he has a good idea,” [Senator] Smith said. Wolfe says he would like the Legislature to take a stronger stance with a bill to require action by the DEP. ~~~  Kirk Moore of thAsbury Park Press story on 9/27/10

FYI to readers: I initiated and wrote the bill that created the non-regulatory Coastal & Ocean Protection Council (since abandoned by Christie under Executive Order #40) and staffed Governor McGreevey’s Highlands Task Force and wrote the DEP and environmental provisions of the Highlands Act (both with Senator Smith, the prime sponsor).

  1. Bill Neil
    November 10th, 2012 at 12:45 | #1

    Yes Bill, good first steps. Here are a couple of thoughts. Nature has been the objective “scientific commentator” in the form of Sandy, indicating where previous coastal permitting decisions – locations and building styles were wrong. Would love to see John Weingart’s, Steve Whitney’s comments upon what has happened…

    The Governor and permanent right to rebuild folks have emotion on their side, but they should face the minimum burden: you can’t build the same way. That implies higher costs if they insist they have the right to come back in the same location. That leads to more beach replenishment – sand pumping – as the defensive measure of choice, but the costs keep going up because usable sand is harder to find as nature moves it around and so many projects have mined the underwater convenient locations. (And how will the rest of “austerity” nation react when they learn they’re paying for 65% of Jersey’s defensive measures?)

    But this is not happening in an ideological and political vacuum: the Governor of NJ at the moment is a fan, big time of austerity and cutting the entitlements he doesn’t like. So how do you pull that off – increasing entitlements at the riskiest of places – while going after Social Security and Medicaid – and you can fill in his NJ state favorites for me.

    So who has the reasonable response: not wholesale retreat but concedeing those places where Nature has just indicated the costs are too high. There will be private insurance payments for the lost or badly damaged structures; the price of the land then drops, so the state is not paying peak of the season prices for the land…so those who can’t rebuild are made whole, free to buy in a safer location, maybe three streets inland…but of course, what I have just written implies a change in the existing law…

    Just a few thoughts on the fault lines Christie is going to have to defend. Do I think conservationists are up to this? Nope; it will take the intervention of others of stature in the state…those so invested in the shore as it has been will have to be convinced that the shore can have a healthy economy even if every last square inch isn’t paved over and built upon. Sandy Hook, Island Beach State Park, Cape May and Seven Bridges Road being some prime examples.

    Good work Bill, keep the issues and the reality on the table.

  2. Bill Neil
    November 10th, 2012 at 13:16 | #2

    Bill: I also have some basic questions which I have been unable to answer from press accounts: 1). How many locations had barrier islands breached with new inlets from the sea? There were at least two near Mantaloking, one prominent one by the bridge connection to the mainland. How about on Long Beach Island, which still has no gas service and where today residents are being allowed back on – but not in Holgate, as the southern tip – to assess property damage. 2). What was the situation in Sea Bright, near Sandy Hook, to the Sea Wall especially? Was it topped – meaning water crested over its height, or was it breached, which is far more serious given the nature of the wall: cement holding giant boulders in place, upon a deep foundation? We need to know the answer to that as taxpayers, if for no other reason – but there are plenty of other good reasons, like safety; Sea Bright is one of the most precarious – and if looked at with objective eyes – the most ridiculous places for building at the Jersey shore – and very expensive to defend.

  3. Bill Neil
    November 10th, 2012 at 14:27 | #3


    I want to add something about emergency relief efforts, after reading some of today’s accounts in the NY Times, including Joe Nocera’s criticisms after he visited the Rockaways. All our citizen’s deserve better, but we as a society and a government are not equipped right now to deliver it. Stop and think about two things: the very recent celebration of Apple’s new device, the gushing technological wonders that went into it…all the planning – yes, planning – and techno engineering…but as you pointed out, and New York and NJ also found out, most of the time it still depends on a functional electronic grid…and even our auto dependent culture can’t handle the implications for widespread and sustained loss of power…note the public transportations systems came back faster…all the more reason to step back and do some new planning…as you have suggested…

    Second, what is the other technological/wonder darling of our age: the drones and all the magic and serious matters they raise…so much of the cutting edge of technology and change is going into and coming from military implications (and the national surveillance state as well) that the contrast with an ill prepared and technologically backward disaster relief system is so striking…and a corollary of this is the already demonstrated feat – and cost in the tens of billions – of building the world’s biggest military base/cum “embassy” in Bagdad…and 505 bases in Iraq alone (I don’t know the number in Afghan, supspec at least equal if not more)…quite a feat at 5,000 miles, don’t you think? So that’s where the logistics planning, money and capability is and has gone…and hey, the Iraqi’s home electrical grid is still a disaster, isn’t it…so how the hell did we set up 505 bases with their own systems (no way we would have them dependent on “foreign” sources)….but here we are going on two weeks and the residents of the Eastern seaboard, NY and NJ aren’t close to having power, stations don’t have generators and refineries are still down…residents can begin to ask themselves why we can do this abroad but can’t cope at home?

  1. November 13th, 2012 at 15:56 | #1
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