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Gov. Christie Forgot All About Barnegat Bay In Sandy Rush To Rebuild

Failed leadership, warped priorities, and regulatory loopholes allowed that to happen

After nearly 18 months of Sandy recovery, there are some moves to get the bay restoration program moving again. …

Like other speakers at the Ocean County College event, Kauffman suggested this era of rebuilding after Sandy is an opportune time to fix pollution problems by including new “green infrastructure” in rebuilt neighborhoods.

But given the pace of rebuilding public infrastructure damaged from the storm, there has not been much time to incorporate those changes in a big way, noted Angela Andersen, Long Beach Township’s recycling coordinator. ~~~ Pollution, Sandy  Threaten Barnegat Bay, a $4 billion economic engine  (APP 4/5/14)

Before Sandy struck on October 29, 2012, Gov. Christie’s stated #1 environmental priority was his 10 point Barnegat Bay Management Plan. Remember that?

The DEP had launched a host of mostly public relations activities in support of that plan. Recall “The Barnegat Blitz”?

The residents of the region, the press, the legislature, academic institutions, US EPA, and coastal conservation groups all were focused on what nationally recognized  Rutgers professor Mike Kennish described as the Bay’s “insidious ecological decline” and potential ecological collapse.

Proliferating jellyfish were the symbol of that collapse.

Pressure was mounting  and consensus was beginning to emerge for the need for a federal Clean Water Act imposed solution called a “TMDL”, for “Total Maximum Daily Load”.

Here is what I was writing about all that in the weeks prior to Sandy:

Sandy changed all of that –

But it didn’t have to be that way.

I’ve been writing about that from many perspectives, with numerous specific criticisms of how what I call Gov. Christie’s “Rebuild Madness” is failing: wasting billions of taxpayer dollars, putting more people and property at risk, and missing huge opportunities for land use reform and risk reduction.

Many mistakes were made  – that’s water under the bridge – but they are being repeated and compounded as we speak.

The latest effort is an attempt to build awareness and support for the economic benefits of the bay in the business community.

Economist Kauffman spoke at a first-ever event hosted by the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, bringing together local business owners with an interest in the bay, local government and agency workers. Foundation executive director David Wheeler said the intent is to build a business constituency for stepping up restoration efforts on the bay and in its 660-square mile watershed.

There is nothing inherently wrong with trying to build a business constituency, but that strategy will fail miserably unless conservation groups  have the spine to tell the business community that they will have to pay more to do business, they will have to restrain their economic aspirations, and they will have to accept far more regulation and regional planning.

Thus far, I see none of that.

And Straw men like this must stop:

But another environmental professional cautioned against fixating on restricting new development as a solution.

“I’ve heard that if development just stopped, everything would be fine,” said Marshall Robert, an engineer whose Asbury Park firm RowBear helps clients deal with environmental issues. In fact, Robert stressed, “if we were to preserve every last acre, that wouldn’t solve the problem … All you’re doing is maintaining pollution to the bay.”

Shame on you Mr. Robert, because no one ever claimed that all we need is a ban on new development and everything wold be “fine”.

Here are elements of the path to getting back on track. I’ve written about each one many times:

  • Revitalize Citizen and Conservation Group Leadership
  • Eliminate the Right to rebuild under CAFRA and Flood Hazard Act
  • Close the CAFRA loophole so that individual homes/projects get DEP reviews
  • Restore the Coastal Management Program at DEP
  • Prepare a Climate adaptation plan, in light of sea level rise, based on a policy of strategic retreat
  • Form a Coastal Commission to regionally plan, coordinate funding, and regulate development
  • Invoke the Clean Water Act – TMDL Program: enforceable pollution reductions & timetables
  • DEP must start regulatory integration and enforcement of multiple silo programs
  • Establish a Stable Source of Funding based on realistic huge costs of restoration
  • Science Driven Response – “seriously ramp things up”

Until all these things occur simultaneously and people get serious, the Bay’s fate is sealed.

It’s dead.

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