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FEMA Seeks To Block Christie DEP Rule Allowing Building on Hudson River Piers

DEP Rule Conflicts With Gov. Christie’s Prior Veto of Legislation

Poor Communication Between DEP & The Front Office?

Or Change in Gov.’s Policy?

The DEP’s proposed new Flood Hazard Rules would allow major new development on Hudson River piers located in mapped high hazard areas. That’s just one of the gems buried in the 900+ page proposal.

The proposal would violate National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) requirements and jeopardize eligibility for the NFIP program.

The DEP proposal is opposed by FEMA and the NJ League of Municipalities, as NJ Spotlight reports today  (and as I first disclosed last week):

In a letter to the state Department of Environmental Protection, FEMA commented that a proposed DEP rule could weaken current flood protections, by allowing, among other things, a new building to go up in a floodway along the Hudson River. …

In another concern, FEMA cites a provision of the rules that would allow construction of a building on a pier in the Hudson River that may not be consistent with the federal flood-insurance program.

The New Jersey State League of Municipalities also urged amendments to the rules to ensure the regulations do not fall below the standards of the flood-insurance program.

Given the Christie Administration’s anti-regulatory animus and reckless promotion of redevelopment in the wake of Sandy – what I’ve called “rebuild madness” – none of this surprised me.

But what left me scratching my head is the fact that the DEP rules on development on Hudson River piers flat out contradict a prior veto by Governor Christie.

In fact, on August 19, 2013, Governor Christie issued an absolute veto of legislation that would have allowed development on Hudson river piers in high hazard areas.

Remarkably, the Gov.’s justification for the veto echoed precisely the same objections expressed by FEMA and the League of Municipalities on DEP’s proposed new rules – it would violate the NFIP and jeopardize eligibility. Christie wrote:

Federal law provides that no flood insurance may be sold or renewed under the NFIP in areas that lack adequate land use and control measures. The federal regulations implementing the NFIP expressly provide that “all new construction” within a coastal high hazard area shall be “located landward of the reach of mean high tide.” Allowing new construction on a pier in a coastal high hazard area as this bill provides contravenes that federal regulation and may therefore jeopardize NFIP eligibility for those municipalities with existing piers along the Hudson River. I cannot condone such a risk.

I wrote three in depth posts about this veto to clarify that the risk that Gov. Christie could not condone was the financial risk of jeopardizing eligibility from the NFIP, not the risk to human life and property from sea level rise and the development in the coastal high hazard zone, see:

Now, 2 years later, DEP Commissioner Bob Martin condones EXACTLY the same risk that Gov. Christie could NOT condone.

Martin has some explaining to do.

I was directly involved in rule making at DEP and have closely followed DEP rules as an activist for 30 years and I can never recall a similar situation where the DEP essentially defied the Gov. Office.

DEP draft rules are reviewed and must be approved by the Governor’s Office before they are proposed for public comment in the NJ Register.

How did this happen? Was it just poor communication between DEP and the Governor’s Office?

Did DEP stealth the provision by the front office in the 900 page proposal?

Did the Governor’s Office miss it?

Or has the Gov. changed his mind about the risks he can and can not condone?

Or is there something else going on??

Do readers have thoughts on that? I am truly baffled.

What Hudson river pier development is involved? Who is the developer? A friend of Christie?

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