Leadership Matters – How DEP Buried Report on Coastal Storm Risks
DEP Neutered Its Own Coastal Management Professionals and Programs
Climate Adaptation Work Like the Proverbial Tree Falling in the Forest
Commissioner Martin should be called before legislative oversight hearings
One question he asked was whether there were technical Reports available and whether NJ had conducted pilot studies within defined geographic zones.
I mentioned a series of global warming, adaptation, coastal hazard assessment, and vulnerability assessment work that had been done recently that documented and warned about the problems we were now experiencing (all had been previously posted with links here).
For a pilot study, I referred him to the Delaware Bay study.
No secret to regular readers here, my conclusion was that all this good work and warnings were being ignored and worse, that the Christie administration was making risks even worse by various deregulatory and pro-economic development policies (and hijacking the CAFRA and State Plan’s land use planning orientation into a corporate economic development strategy).
Under the Christie DEP policy, had the real estate industry not collapsed, there would have been hundreds of more homes built in hazardous coastal locations and millions more in storm damage.
Later, as I walked, upon reflection I realized that all my various criticisms were unfair because they ignored very important work DEP’s Office of Coastal Management recently did on this set of issues (dated 3/15/12).
So, how could it be I wondered, that I was not aware of and some how simply forgot to even mention this work? After I even recently filed an OPRA request for it and written about the issues many times?
Here it is - and it’s right on point:
Coastal Community Vulnerability Assessment Protocol (CCVAP) is a GIS-based methodology to assist land use planners, hazard mitigation planners, emergency managers, and other local decision-makers in the identification of their community’s vulnerability through virtual mapping. By applying the methods defined in CCVAP to the pilot communities, areas were identified where built infrastructure, sensitive natural resources, and special needs populations overlapped areas of potential inundation. This vulnerability mapping supports community efforts to make the connection between the potential consequences of sea level rise and inundation to their vulnerability – ultimately to guide the community for resilience planning.
Getting to Resilience is a questionnaire developed as a non-regulatory tool to help coastal communities build capacity for resilience to coastal hazards and sea level rise. The application of the survey was intended to highlight positive actions already underway within the pilot communities and to identify opportunities to improve local resilience through planning, public outreach, mitigation, and response mechanisms. This questionnaire validates the hazard planning that the communities have begun to implement and identifies opportunities to incorporate adaptation strategies in broader community planning.
(note especially the limit to “local” decisions and the explicit mention of “non-regulatory tools” – any DEP regulation is now taboo!)
This work was like the proverbial tree falling in the forest.
It has been ignored and swept under the rug by DEP Commissioner Martin. Buried in the Bureaucracy.
Now here’s where leadership matters and why “in the weeds” organizational issues are key.
First of all, you won’t find this work anywhere on DEP special “Hurricane Sandy Information” webpage. When an issue is a priority to the Commissioner, it is presented to the public, not kept virtually secret.
Second, you will not find the Coastal Community Vulnerability Assessment Protocol mentioned anywhere in Governor Christie’s Executive Orders, speeches, policy documents, or public remarks. When an issue is a priority to the Governor, he talks about it and it is presented to the public, not kept virtually secret.
For example, you won’t find global warming, sea level rise, storm surge risks included in Governor Christie’s highly touted 10 Point Barnegat Bay Management Plan, yet the Bay was significantly impacted by Superstorm Sandy.
Similarly, like the coastal storm risk issue, there were relevant but generally low profile and downplayed recommendations by Governor’s Nuclear Review Taskforce regarding flooding and lack of back up power (post Fukushima lessons ignored).
Third, while Martin’s DEP has issued the most press releases ever, on the most mundane and self promotional topics (how can we forget the release on the Polo Classic? - or construction of “Margaritaville?), you will not find any press releases about this March 15, 2012 critically important Coastal Community Vulnerability Assessment Protocol and pilot work along the coast.
Fourth, because there has been no DEP press release there has been little press coverage (I think Kirk Moore of the Asbury Park Press has written a small story or two.)
Fifth, DEP views Coastal Community Vulnerability Assessment as a local responsibility. This is another issue where DEP has abdicated, outsourced, or delegated critical State responsibilities.
Sixth, during storm preparation, in a show of extemely poor judgment, DEP Commissioner Martin found it more important to write a letter to advise local officials about weakening DEP flood hazard regulations than managing real storm risk.
And last, and most importantly, DEP Commissioner Martin has buried the Office of Coastal Zone Management in the DEP bureaucracy.He did the same thing with the Office of Climate Change.
Both those Offices previously were elevated and housed in the Commissioner’s Office and reported directly to the Commissioner. This gave them more resources and influence within DEP.
Instead, while burying climate and the coast, Martin has created several new troubling Offices in the Commisisoner’s Office that report directly to him.
A DEP Commissioner’s priorities matter – coastal management and climate change adaptation were clearly not a priority (and solutions ran counter to Christie policy).
Commissioner Martin should be called before legislative oversight hearings to explain and defend his priorities – particularly how he hadled the Office of Coastal Zone Management’s Report and pilot study.
- Why was that community vulnerability Report and pilot study virtually ignored by DEP press Office and regulatory programs, like CAFRA and WQMP?
- Why were no State funds requested to expand and implement the Report and Pilot study throughout the entire highly vulnerable NJ coast?
- What are DEP’s plans for assuming a lead State Responsibility in climate change adaptation and coastal vulnerability assessment, adaptation, and risk mitigation planning?
- When will DEP update flood hazard maps and ratchet down on regulations to prevent putting more people and property in harm’s way?
- Would Gov. Christie support an end to the CAFRA “right to rebuild” provision?