Home > Uncategorized > In Their Own Words – Christie DEP Promoting Development On Barrier Islands

In Their Own Words – Christie DEP Promoting Development On Barrier Islands

 Reversing Prohibitions, Marinas Allowed To Destroy Sensitive Ecosystems – Riparian Restaurants


The Department of Environmental Protection’s Larry Hajna clarified that this does not apply to wetlands or other protected areas.

“We’re not talking about building on dunes, or building in environmentally sensitive areas, we’re talking about basically infilling areas on the islands that have not been developed,” Hajna said. ~~~ WHYY Newsworks 7/31/14 (a must read story!)

The Governor & DEP Commissioner  simply need to read the sea level rise and hazard assessment in the Department’s own 309 Coastal Assessment Report. ~~~ Bill Wolfe

This one is so bad, even the DEP press office can’t spin it.

DEP knows they’re in deep shit when they have to announce – as if it’s some kind of accomplishment – that they won’t allow building on dunes, something that is insane and has been prohibited for a long time in NJ.

What’s next, a press release taking credit for not allowing – to paraphrase an anti-environmental industry attack line – the slaughter of whales in a wetland?

But hey, the DEP did reverse a prior prohibition on allowing marinas and restaurants to be built in shellfish habitat, so I guess under Gov. Christie, everything really is up for grabs.

WHYY Newsworks reporter Carolyn Beeler probes all that while on the ground, in a great piece on Gov. Christie’s reckless promotion of growth at the shore, while ignoring climate change and sea level rise, causing local governments to struggle alone with massive problems, see:

In an otherwise superb piece, the only thing I would take exception to is the headline and underlying premise, which are completely wrong.

The Christie Administration does have a statewide strategy on coastal development and climate change.

That strategy was announced by the Governor virtually the day after Sandy struck – I have dubbed it: “Rebuild Madness”.

The Governor’s statewide strategy on climate change, sea level rise, and the need for an adaptation based regional land use plan for the coast is called: denial, defunding, and obstruction or veto of all measures intended to do so.

We’ve written about that here dozens of times, so I won’t even waste the effort to garner all the links to the posts.

Most recently, the Governor’s strategy was implemented by DEP’s massive proposed rewrite of coastal land use rules – a massive rewrite of rules readopted without change just last year, months before the election.

We testified at public hearings opposing that proposal and have urged that the proposed rules be vetoed by the legislature as “inconsistent with legislative intent”.

As we and others have written extensively about that DEP coastal development rule proposal, let’s let subject matter expert John Miller explain the fundamental flaws of Gov. Christie’s strategy: (from Newsworks):

In the face of rising seas, he argues putting more people in low-lying areas near the coast will make it harder to evacuate them, or reach them with emergency services.

When you are moving structures closer to the water, when you are increasing densities, when you are changing what are called water-dependent uses, you are now starting to get more and more development into high-risk areas, and that is our concern,” said Miller, who testified at a public hearing on the rule changes for his role as the legislative committee chair of the New Jersey Association for Floodplain Management.

Yes, I feel on solid ground by calling all that “Rebuild Madness”.

Just another day in Gov. Christie’s NJ.

So, let’s hope that FEMA, EPA, NOAA, the banks, or the insurance industry can rise up and block the DEP move as a result of conflicts with FEMA and Federal Flood Insurance Program requirements.

Or perhaps the Obama Administration (HUD, USACE, NOAA, FEMA, EPA)  or Congress might wise up and impose conditions of the expenditure of billions of dollars of taxpayer money, all to repeat an even greater disaster when the next huge coastal storm hits, a question of when, not if.

Or, of course, the NJ Legislature could exercise their Constitutional power to oversee the Executive Branch of State government and rise up and veto the DEP rule.

But that would require a bi-partisan Legislative effort – for once, in the public interest – to challenge not only the Governor’s madness, but the political power of the development lobby. It would also require a public campaign by the coastal environmental groups to get their memberships active. I see no evidence of any of that.

But somebody has got to stand up to the the Christie insanity.

[Technical PS to the DEP Press Office:  Take a look at sea level rise projection maps, note areas of complete or frequent inundation, even without coastal storms.

Then look at updated flood maps, use the 500 year storm or flood event.

Or simply read the sea level rise and hazard assessment in the Department’s own 309 Coastal Assessment Report.

The DEP is inviting development to these areas, and that is insane.

Then consider this provision of the DEP wetlands rules and think what a science based application of those rules would mean for inland and coastal areas mapped per above “high water episodes” – much of NJ land area is a transition zone!:

7:7A-2.5 General transition area provisions

(a) A transition area serves as:

  1. An ecological transition zone from uplands to freshwater wetlands which is an integral portion of the freshwater wetlands ecosystem, providing temporary refuge for freshwater wetlands fauna during high water episodes, critical habitat for animals dependent upon but not resident in freshwater wetlands, and slight variations of freshwater wetland boundaries over time due to hydrologic or climatologic effects; and
  2. A sediment and storm water control zone to reduce the impacts of development upon freshwater wetlands and freshwater wetlands species.

[Update: While we’re on a technical plane, let me note, something I’ve written and warned about BEFORE SANDY, that it is not technically accurate to say that the Christie administration “has no climate adaptation strategy”.

The truth is actually worse than that – worse than nothing.

The Christie administration has outsourced and privatized climate and adaptation planning, to a corporate funded front group called “Sustainable NJ”. (SNJ was involved in the “riddled with errors” Hazard Mitigation Energy Grant fiasco too)

You don’t have to take my word for that – here is DEP’s own 309 Coastal Assessment document submitted to NOAA:

Climate change planning and adaptation strategies

Since the last assessment, the Coastal Management Office has dedicated 309 funding to the development of ‘Getting to Resilience,’ a questionnaire to help local decision makers identify ways to decrease their vulnerability and improve their resilience to coastal hazards and/or sea level rise through planning, municipal codes, and emergency preparedness and response. By working with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Climate and Energy and statewide partners, the New Jersey Coastal Management Office is presently working to incorporate the questionnaire as an action item within Sustainable JerseyTM, which is a certification and incentive program developed by a collaborative effort of state, academic, and non-profit groups to promote sustainable community initiatives. Sustainable JerseyTM provides communities with mandatory actions to improve their long-term sustainability, in addition to allowing them the flexibility to improve their longevity and character through changes in municipal planning, regulations, and creative grassroots initiatives. By participating in Sustainable JerseyTM, municipalities receive a comprehensive package of tools, guidance materials, training, and financial incentives. Launched in 2009, nearly fifty coastal communities are currently participating in the program.

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