Home > Uncategorized > Storm of Denial – Why Is Christie DEP Still in Denial and Lying About State Role in Coastal Hazards?

Storm of Denial – Why Is Christie DEP Still in Denial and Lying About State Role in Coastal Hazards?

This is NOT Sandy (source: NJ Sea Grant "Manual for Coastal Hazard Mitigation")

To Get to Resilience, We Must Get Past Denial and State Abdication

Waist Deep in the Big Muddy – The Big Fools Says to Push On

“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]

Why is DEP so deep in denial and lying about it ? (for illustration, see DEP press office comments in the above HuffPo story and in today’s Bergen Record story)

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.”

“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.”

This level of denial and abdication warrant legislative intervention and federal regulatory oversight.

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  1. Good-Bye Marven Gardens
    November 13th, 2012 at 00:52 | #1

    I’ve just taken a short look at your site after just now being able to back-track and start looking at the recent storm problem online.
    I am currently living in part of what used to be my house located on a barrier island, (Absecon Island, home of Atlantic City), and I have to confess my denial and ignorance.
    I’ve lived here for about 25 years. Yes, we have seen floods but nothing like this. I like the ocean, but not THAT much, and although I may be the only one in my family who feels this way, I am ready to evacuate permanently.
    You see my family has already engaged a crew of construction workers and they are stupidly and avidly re-building!
    What would it take to convince them otherwise? I don’t know.
    I do think that if someone in authority, or “official”-aka, “the law”, came in and said, “Sorry but this area is condemned you may not live here”, well, I think that my family would respect that and THAT is what I think SOMEONE should DO.
    They are talking about “hundred year storm and we won’t see THAT again”, and I am no scientist, but I do NOT agree. I WANT OUT!
    I’m still drying myself off from the storm, but I can tell you that I personally am NOT planning on staying here even if it means living in a tent somewhere else.
    I just thought I would leave you this comment so that you know that not all of us are hell-bent on re-building and holding our ground here.
    SOME of us want to leave and would just love to see officials do the responsible, hard thing and just say, MOVE.
    I received some paperwork from FEMA which said something about barrier islands and how the federal government FEMA is legally forbidden from certain activities when it comes to helping barrier island dwellers. And even from helping people relocate.
    I don’t know what this means as far as any type of help or assistance, but if I have to apply for any assistance, or receive any, I would personally like to have the option of using that assistance to LEAVE.
    Rebuilding is an exercise in waste, futility, and possibly putting myself and my family at greater or at the very least, continued unacceptable level of risk.
    I’m only speaking for myself here and after seeing what I have seen recently, I acknowledge and accept my own personal responsibility to protect myself and my family, but if there is anything that I would personally ask that my government do for me, it would be for them/us, to get on with the sad business of telling barrier island residents that the time has come to leave.
    (I don’t need anyone to tell me this at this point, I plan on leaving but my family and neighbors are hunkering-onward with repairs).

  2. Good-Bye Marven Gardens
    November 13th, 2012 at 01:14 | #2

    Oh-and one more thing, since I’m so chatty right now. A strange phenom of this disaster are the “disaster looters”-(my name for them), who have appeared out of nowhere.
    I’m not talking about the construction workers, emergency help, etc. but what appears to be human parasites who purposely came to the disaster area to grab whatever “free stuff” could be grabbed.
    Right now I have so many of my own troubles getting put back together, and packing to leave that i can’t quite figure-out who these people are or where they come from, but I have seen them at stores trying to turn emergency vouchers and gold Master-cards from some help org. or agency into cash and I know that they are NOT from around here. (they are white people fyi, so please don’t think that I’m making a racist comment, except that they are Caucasian in appearance)
    There are a lot of non-profits handing out a lot of help here but at least some of the people taking that help which I believe is meant for local storm victims, appear to have traveled here from many states away. I heard one woman claim that she and her family were “stuck” here, but she wasn’t very convincing. Who gets themselves and there family with children “stuck” in Atlantic City in the height of the school year?
    Ah-well, I see a lot of help being offered and a lot being given but as one who luckily swam-out of this alive, the only kind of help that I am asking for is help in condemning permanent dwelling here.
    -Because all of my “stuff”, and my home is ruined and I just don’t think that I want to go-through this again.

  3. November 13th, 2012 at 08:50 | #3

    @Good-Bye Marven Gardens
    If you watch the HuffPo Live video, you will note that I agree with one of your points that not everyone wants to stay and many want to leave to avoid a repeat of this emotional trauma.

  4. Good-Bye Marven Gardens
    November 14th, 2012 at 19:45 | #4

    Thank-you for pointing-out the video. And thank-you for your service to the environment. I am passing along your url to my neighbors. I am not the only one who does not want to do this again and we need the kind of info. and resources that you are providing, keep up the good work!

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