Storm of Denial – Why Is Christie DEP Still in Denial and Lying About State Role in Coastal Hazards?
To Get to Resilience, We Must Get Past Denial and State Abdication
“We have this insane mentality, this boosterism along the coast,” said Wolfe, the former state environmental official in New Jersey. “For years and years, people have been putting up warning flags. The state has known this, and instead of regulating more restrictively they’ve pushed right ahead.”
Larry Ragonese, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, argued that development along the Jersey Shore has been ongoing for decades, even before there was a coastal permitting program. He said it is not the state’s role to dictate how redevelopment should occur.
“People who live along the shore always live with a risk, and they know that. That’s understood,” he said. “We at the state are not going to tell these towns you can or cannot rebuild, but we will work with them to make sure that whatever comes back will be done in as smart or protective a fashion as possible.”~~~ Huffington Post 11/12/12
[Watch HuffPost Live Panel discussion]
The above photo is the cover of a Report titled: NEW JERSEY SEA GRANT COLLEGE PROGRAM MANUAL FOR COASTAL HAZARD MITIGATION . If that is not an unheeded warning, I don’t know what is.
DEP’s legal responsibility is clear – the DEP Press Office can not credibly deny this.
DEP press office statements directly contradict NJ law, which requires that DEP regulate land use, development, and infrastructure in the coastal zone.
Under the federal Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) and the NJ Coastal Area Facilities Review Act (CAFRA) DEP is legally responsible as the lead for coastal management. Under both federal and state law, DEP also is responsible for planning and permitting of critical public infrastructure, including sewer and water.
State government has additional coastal land use and infrastructure responsibilities under the NJ State Planning Act.
Why is DEP denying all this? Particularly, these 3 aspects:
- DEP conducted a pilot storm risk reduction program along the shore (aptly titled: “Getting To Resilience”) and in March 2012, DEP issued a directly on point Report: NJ Coastal Community Resilience Report, which states:
“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 toguide 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.”
That DEP Vulnerability Assessment Report found:
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.
- As required by the federal CZMA, every 2 years DEP prepares a Coastal Hazard and Vulnerability Assessment Report – here’s the relevant DEP findings from the DEP’s Section 309 Coastal Hazards Assessment:
“Many parts of New Jersey’s densely populated coastal area are highly susceptible to the effects of the following coastal hazards: flooding, storm surge, episodic erosion, chronic erosion, sea level rise, and extra-tropical storms. Reconstruction of residential development and the conversion of single family dwellings into multi-unit dwellings continues in hazardous areas… the value of property at risk is increasing significantly. With anticipated accelerating sea level rise and increasing storm frequency and intensity, vulnerability to the risks of coastal hazards will not abate; it will only become more costly. [...]
…in certain instances, structural engineering solutions will not be practical or economically feasible. In these cases future public and private development and redevelopment must be directed away from the hazardous areas. While some derogatorily refer to this option as “retreat,” from the perspective of sound planning based on the best available science, the concept actually involves “strategic adjustment.” Prudent planning requires that we expand upon the existing studies of the societal, economic, and environmental costs of possible mitigative actions while the greatest number of alternatives exist.”
- The infrastructure assessment element of the Christie State Plan explicitly noted the failure to plan for climate change adaptation, highlighting the limits of reliance on local voluntary actions:
“While the State Development and Redevelopment Plan has promoted sustainability from its beginnings, it has been less consistent in promoting resilience, defined as accounting for, or mitigating (by reducing risk and vulnerability), costs reasonably anticipated during the life of each infrastructure project, including disruption from natural or manmade hazards. Compartmentalization (“silos”) of infrastructure investment decision making, both within and across state agencies and between local and state governments, is still a problem.”