Home > Uncategorized > Shore Fire Provides Last Chance To Rethink “Rebuild Madness” and Reject Climate Denial

Shore Fire Provides Last Chance To Rethink “Rebuild Madness” and Reject Climate Denial

Gov. Christie Again Drunk on Nostalgia – Repeating Sandy “Rebuild Madness”

Gov. Relies on Slogans to Scapegoat “Red Tape”

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

Gov. Christie in response to Sandy:

“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) (see: Are there any grownups in the room?)

Gov. Christie in response to Seaside fire:

“We lost a place that has provided generations of memories to our citizens, but we will rebuild,” Christie said. “We’ll make new memories for our families, because that’s what we do.”

He vowed his administration would cut through red tape and try to speed the pace of demolition and construction. It was too soon, Christie said, to place a dollar figure on the damage. (Star Ledger 9/14/13)

Same manipulative faux nostalgia.

Same shameless self promotion.

Same scapegoating of government “red tape”.

Same “rebuild madness”.

Before we repeat the same historical coastal development mistakes and the same post Sandy mistakes I have called “Rebuild Madness”, a little context is in order:

1) We are talking about highly vulnerable barrier islands.

Sea level is rising – the rate of rise will only increase as a result of global warming. The barrier islands will be inundated and/eroded away in our lifetimes.

Climate change will only increase the strength of coastal storms and storm surge.

It is insane to rebuild there –

Rather, we need to gradually retreat from the barrier island to higher elevation mainland areas.

2) “Red tape” is your friend.

“Red tape” includes things like this:

  • land use planning and zoning to avoid development of high hazard locations and maximize preservation of natural features
  • Hazard Mitigation and Climate Change Adaptation Planning to adapt to future conditions under climate change
  • DEP infrastructure regulatory standard to assure things like adequate pressure in water mains to provide enough water to fight fires
  • building and fire codes to prevent the speared of fires and minimize damage and loss of life
  • insurance requirements to minimize risk

It appears that these “red tape” safety protections were ignored – because, at a minimum, building permits were issued in locations that lacked adequate water pressure to fight fires. A Star Ledger story quotes the Gov. himself to confirm this apparent serious violation of codes and DEP water supply regulations:

Christie said there were challenges with the water supply because of damage to the system post-Sandy, “so in order to work around this, we are drawing lines from Barnegat Bay.

Maybe if DEP Commissioner Martin had not issued an Order deregulating the rebuilding of infrastructure, the DEP would have been involved in assuring adequate pressure as part of the rebuilding permit review process.

Was basic public infrastructure correctly rebuilt? See prior news reports on precisely this issue:

“Restoring basic public infrastructure will be a critical first step toward the recovery of our cities and towns,’’ Martin said. “For emergency repairs, we cannot let bureaucracy get in the way. Red tape should not and will not hold up this vital work.’’ […]

“The [Martin] order amounts to a total abdication of DEP’s responsibility to supervise responsible planning and environmentally sound permitting of critical public infrastructure,’’ said Bill Wolfe, director of the New Jersey chapter of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a public watchdog group

Full disclosure: Before that NJ Spotlight story, I broke the story on the Martin Order and wrote about this as well, seeChristie Abdication: DEP Commissioner Martin Waives Rules for Rebuilding Wiped Out Infrastructure

Of course, if Gov. Christie was not a climate denier, he would not have engaged in “Rebuild Madness” and instead rethought coastal development, engaged in hazard mitigation and adaptation planning, and supported a coastal commission, instead of mindlessly rebuilding in the vulnerable locations that just burned down.

3) Emotional appeals and denial of science must not be the basis for public policy

Nostalgia is a wonderful human emotion.

But it must not be the basis for public policy and expenditure of billions of dollars of taxpayer money.

The Gov. and the Legislature need to wake up to and set policy based on what the science is telling us.

The fire is perhaps out last wakeup call.

BTW Governor, it is not government’s role to “make memories”.

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