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Restore The Hindenberg!

Gov. Christie’s Billion Dollar Sandy Recovery Booondoggle

The Gov.’s “Political Slush Fund” & “Piggy Bank” Puts Billions of Dollars and Thousands of People At Risk

Climate Denial at the Jersey Shore

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“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 below]

Today begins the first in a series of 3 public hearings on Gov. Christie’s proposed plan to spend the next round of $1.46 billion in federal Sandy recovery aid, which got me to thinking about historically infamous NJ disasters

(see this for locations and times of those hearings and how to submit comments).

The one that comes to mind today is the Hindenberg, a German airship that crashed and burned while landing at Lakehurst NJ on May 6, 1937 –  Thirty five people were killed (by comparison, thirty eighty NJ people were killed by Sandy) (read the Hindenberg story at Wiki).

“The Hindenburg disaster marked the beginning of the end for airship travel. Yet what is often forgotten today is that, until the 1930s, airships were a popular and luxurious way to travel. (link) It was an abrupt end of the era of the Zeppelin

Now, let’s do a little thought experiment to illustrate our current situation.

Let’s suppose that, just days after the Hindenberg disaster, while the smoke had not yet cleared, then NJ Governor Harold Hoffman held a series of press events and said something nostalgic like this:

No doubt that the Hindenberg tragedy was a major blow. But the Zeppelin is too much a part of NJ’s culture to abandon. I do not intend to be the governor who presides over the idea that the Zeppelin is going to be gone. I refuse to accept that.

I fondly recall trips as a boy with parents up and down the shore on the Jersey Zeppelin. I met my wife on the Zeppelin.

We need to keep Zeppelin jobs in NJ – that’s why I am calling for not only reconstruction of the Hindenberg, but a billion dollar program of construction of 10 more so that Zeppelin’s remain an essential part of NJ’s future.

The people of NJ would have tar and feathered the man, right? Or at least had good sense to reject his Zeppelin plan.

But that is exactly what current NJ Gov. Chris Christie is doing in rebuilding the NJ shore in almost exactly the same way in response to Superstorm Sandy.

Just days after Sandy struck, the Mantoloking cut (see above) was filled and work began on reconstructing the bridge and Rt. 35.

“We’re stronger than the storm” Gov. Christie assured us in his famous blue fleece.

Here’s what Gov. Christie’s plan says about Rt. 35 and the Mantoloking cut depicted in photos above:

In reconstructing the State’s transportation infrastructure, the State aims to build back a more resilient infrastructure. For example, State Route 35’s reconstruction will incorporate best practices in mitigation, including an improved drainage system, pump stations, and 24-inch thick pavement and sub-base materials. In addition, the State has undertaken the installation of more than four miles of steel sheeting to further protect Route 35.  (@ page 2-24)

The cost of this folly is over $250 million taxpayer dollars.

But reconstruction of a highly vulnerable road and bridge on a barrier island is just the beginning for the Christie Crew.

One highly vulnerable bridge is not enough – They want to build another bridge!

Other long-term projects are also underway, including the construction of a new bridge, among other improvements, to be built parallel to the State Route 72 Manahawkin Bay Causeway. The new bridge will provide the safety of a redundant route on or off Long Beach Island in the event a span needs to be closed. 

But even that insanity just begins to scratch the surface.

For example, Ocean County planners recently held public hearings on the County’s Hazard Mitigation Plan (for an analysis of that, see:

Ocean County Hazard Mitigation Plan Shows Major Portions Of County Underwater Due to Sea Level Rise – Dunes Offer No Protection – Back Bay Flooding NJ’s “Achilles Heel”:

The Plan is just more evidence that shows how extremely reckless and irresponsible Gov. Christie’s push to rebuild the shore is, without considering future risks due to climate change and sea level rise.

The State is spending billions of taxpayer dollars on infrastructure and allowing people to rebuild in areas that the know will be under water permanently, even without a storm.

The County found that:

The Ocean County Plan shows the major portions of the county will be permanently inundated – underwater – due to projected sea level rise. Sea level rise make storm surge far worse. (see table showing the percentages of each town in the county that will be permanently inundated as a result of sea level rise, not considering coastal storms and storm surge).

In deciding how to use federal Sandy aid, Governor Christie’s plan does not even consider sea level rise, storm surge, and more intense coastal storms that are certain to result from climate change  (see:  NEW CHRISTIE SANDY SPENDING PLAN HAS GAPING HOLES.

The Governor proposes to spend billions of federal taxpayer dollars rebuilding in highly vulnerable areas – and even more private sector dollars.

The Governor’s proposed plans for beach replenishment and dune construction will not fully protect the coastal areas and will make back bay flooding worse. Those plans have not be funded by Congress or designed by the  US Army Corps of Engineers.

Rutgers professor Michael Kennish has called back bay flooding NJ’s “Achilles heel”: (Kirk Moore, APP)

Back-bay areas will be New Jersey’s “Achilles’ heel,” said research professor Michael Kennish. “They have no really good way to protect against back-bay flooding.”

And Rutgers Professor Psuty has warned that dunes are not a panacea: (Sarah Watson, AC Press)

While New Jersey and other states have put a major focus on building extensive dune systems following Sandy, those dunes will only protect the immediate oceanfront area, Psuty said. Communities on the bay side of barrier islands will see no protection from the dunes, he said.

“I’m afraid when I hear our local politicians talk about the dunes, they think the dunes solve everything and that is just not the case.”

And Professor Miller warned:

It is estimated sea levels will rise between 2.5 and 6 feet by the end of the century. If those forecasts prove accurate, New Jersey’s effort to require those rebuilding to elevate at least one foot above the current base flood mark is not enough, said Ken Miller, a geologist and sea level rise expert.

“If New Jersey wants to be moving forward to incorporate sea level rise, there needs to be a minimum of two feet above base flood elevation in the current maps,” he said.

Sea level rise was responsible for an additional 38,000 homes to flood during Sandy, Miller said.

The Governor’s reliance on FEMA “Base Flood Elevations” – which do not consider sea level rise and climate change impacts – plus just 1 foot of “freeboard” elevation above the FEMA BFE’s, will not even address permanent inundation nor will they adequate protect structures from the next Sandy, which is certain to come and certain to increase in destructive force.

The Governor s plan completely ignores the issue of coastal land use – it is not even there. Almost all other  coastal states State’s address land use as a key strategy for Hazard Mitigation and resilience.

The Governor’s plan completely ignores  the suite of NJ State laws and regulations and programs that deal with Coastal Zone Management (CAFRA); water and sewer infrastructure planning; water quality, and natural resource protection.

Not only does the Gov. fail to take advantage of these State laws to improve the status quo, there is not even a linkage in the Governor’s plans to assure that implementation of  the projects that receive federal Sandy funds will be done in compliance with these state laws, regulations, and programs.

All of these key State  government land use and infrastructure planning and regulatory issues are deferred – virtually everything in the Christie plan is prospective – the word “will” is used hundreds of times!

It is difficult for me to imagine that the Obama Administration – who recognizes climate change and sea level rise and serious problems hat must be dealt with – will sit back and rubber stamp this plan, given these fundamental defects.

And it is even harder to believe that the NJ Legislature and media – given the current scandalous situation where some say the Gov. used Sandy funds as a “political slush fund” and others have observed that the Gov. used the Port Authority as a “political piggy bank” – will repeat lax oversight and give the Governor another pass on another billion dollar boondoggle.

[UpdateNJ Spotlight is spinning some “good news” about a so called energy resilience fund, see:  STATE PROPOSES SPECIAL FUND TO BANKROLL ENERGY RESILIENCY PROJECTS

Here’s my reply to that:

The Christie plan also calls for using $225 million of federal funds to satisfy the State match requirements.That takes a rather large pair given the current situation, no?And it is almost the she amount of money as the Energy Bank – so when feds reject State match proposal, that will be the first to go.
And when New York State officials and Gov. Cuomo find out that Gov. Christie cut another deal with Chairman Samson at the Port Authority to have the Port pay for NJ’s share of the Port’s $2 billion infrastructure damaged by Sandy, you can be sure that additional federal funds anticipated and “programmed” by Gov. Chrisite will be lost.Of course, HUD is now looking closely and is likely to enforce their new rules on science based sea level rise and climate change risk analysis, which the Christie plan does not even attempt to do (they say the “will” consider that at some undefined future time), so there may be lots more federal money that is jeopardized.We released a letter from HUD”s Inspector General backing this up.Why aren’t critical facets like this reported?

Given the context and the new HUD rules, NJ must demonstrate that federal funds will be programmed via enforceable state commitments.

The Christie plan intentionally ignores NJ’s suite of Coastal land use, infrastructure, water quality, and natural resource protection programs and makes vague prospective promises about what the State “will do”.

That will cut no ice at HUD anymore.

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