Home > Uncategorized > Murphy DEP Commissioner Claims NJ Residents Not “Culturally” Aware Of How To Manage Flood Risks

Murphy DEP Commissioner Claims NJ Residents Not “Culturally” Aware Of How To Manage Flood Risks

DEP Has Recognized And Supported A “Strategic Adjustment” Policy For Over 15 Years

DEP Has Failed To Plan For, Regulate And Implement This Policy

DEP Now Blames The Public And “Culture” For Those Failures

Just a quick note to: 1) clarify the important but wonky issue of “strategic adjustment”; and 2) document what is perhaps the most absurd, irresponsible, and revealing statement by a DEP Commissioner, ever.

Last week, Murphy DEP Commissioner LaTourette said this about the longstanding DEP policy of “managed retreat“: (NJ Spoltight)

One strategy, known as “managed retreat,” is premised on buying out properties in flood zones and preserving the area as open space. LaTourette announced Tuesday he wants the state to seek additional funding for its Blue Acres program, which provides buyouts for flood victims in flood zones so they can move to higher ground and their property become open space. The program is voluntary.

“I don’t believe we have begun the mission of managed retreat. I don’t know that we are at a point culturally to know what it means,” LaTourette said, though he does want more funding for the Blue Acres program.

Just for the record, for over 15 years, DEP has supported (rhetorically, but not in regulations) the policy of “strategic adjustment”.

As I wrote almost 9 years ago, in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, here is the DEP’s description and formal inclusion of that “strategic adjustment” policy in the federally approved NJ Coastal Zone Management Program:

Titus demonstrates (link) that in certain instances, structural engineering solutions will not be practical or economically feasible. In these cases future public and private development and redevelopment must be directed away from the hazardous areas. While some derogatorily refer to this option as “retreat,” from the perspective of sound planning based on the best available science, the concept actually involves “strategic adjustment.” Prudent planning requires that we expand upon the existing studies of the societal, economic, and environmental costs of possible mitigative actions while the greatest number of alternatives exist. [Source: Read full 2006 DEP 309 Report]

For a DEP Commissioner not to be aware of this important policy history is remarkable.

DEP rhetorically “began the mission” of “managed retreat” (a pejorative term – it’s actually called “strategic adjustment”) decades ago, but never followed through.

NJ Spotlight and Commissioner LaTourette define “managed retreat” far too narrowly and limit it to the piecemeal DEP voluntary Blue Acres program.

A “Strategic adjustment” policy logically would lead to statewide DEP planning and regulation – not just rhetoric – and not just scattershot voluntary, ineffective, and costly Blue Acres buyouts.

It would include reforms like “one and done”, i.e. elimination of the current NJ law establishing a “right to rebuild”.

It would include: 1) statewide DEP planning (not a patchwork of 520 local government efforts); 2) statewide flood map updates,; 3) bans on new development and retrofits of existing development in high hazard locations; and 4) stricter DEP flood zone standards.

So, LaTourette is not only dangerously ignorant, he actually disparaged and dismissed the most critical “Strategic adjustment” policy by using a pejorative term to describe a policy that he doesn’t know anything about and has failed to implement.

But equally remarkable – and revealing – is LaTourette’s emphasis on “culture”.

Why would a DEP Commissioner talk about “culture”?

That revealing remark exposes LaTourette’s personal experience and ideology of government’s role and his emphasis on cultural issues over traditional public policy discourse and practice.

That’s exactly what practitioners of what Professor Nancy Fraser calls “Progressive Neoliberalism” do –  they use culture (identity politics) to mask economic and political power.

In fact, Gov. Murphy has taken the same approach and played the identity politics card – for example, by emphasizing that LaTourette is the first gay DEP Commissioner.

As I’ve written, that has nothing to do with the job, but it does provide political cover.

And now, that identity politics focus is being used to not only divert from DEP’s failures, but to actually blame the public and victims of flooding for those failures.

The man is a dangerous gaslighting fool and should be fired.

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