Hurricane Sandy forever changed what the Jersey Shore will look like. Our hearts go out to all of those impacted and we will rebuild one of the most important areas of our state. We must and we will rebuild after Hurricane Sandy. However we need to do it better, smarter, and in the right places.
When we rebuild we must ensure it is done in a way to keep families out of harm’s way and to reduce the likelihood that such a loss of lives and property could happen again in the future. It is important for our economy to rebuild the right way because these storms will keep coming. As we recover from Hurricane Sandy we need to put in place good planning and land use policies that protect our families from the impacts of climate disruption and sea level rise.
There are areas that have been damaged that we need to rebuild such as Atlantic City and Asbury Park, but we need to do it the right way. We cannot allow more growth in flood prone areas and must limit development upstream of those areas. We need to do a better job managing stormwater and preventing combined sewer overflows. Certain areas we should buy out or let them rebuild somewhere else because they are too vulnerable to flooding and storm surges. New Jersey now has the opportunity to implement good planning along our coastal areas to better protect people and property from future disasters.
We need to stop using public money to subsidize development in the wrong places. Disaster relief must not keep using taxpayer money to rebuild the same house again and again in the wrong location. Instead they should be giving them money to rebuild somewhere else.
Our open space fund is out of money so we will not be able to purchase many of these sites through the Blue Acres Program, which helps move families out of harm’s way. We could have preserved lands to create more dunes and areas for flood water storage but now those opportunities will be lost. We need to restore natural system like flood plains ans wetlands to mitigate the impacts of these storms.
Many of the areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy are slated for more growth under the Governor’s State Strategic Plan and under coastal regulations such as Lacey, Stafford, and Toms River. In the regulated coastal zone in Ocean County we could add 200,000 more people based on existing regulations. An additional 100,000 people could be added to Lakewood as well, more than doubling Ocean County’s population.
As we rebuild we need to revise our building codes so structures stand up better to higher winds and flooding. We need to build further back from flood prone areas and the dunes and also make sure we elevate not only houses but key infrastructure. We should be promoting more green homes and energy efficient buildings when we rebuild as well.
Maintaining the character of the communities is critical as we rebuild. This must not become an excuse to put high rise luxury housing in areas that were once small bungalows. We hope the Jersey Shore continues to be the Jersey Shore.
We also need to do a better job restoring and protecting dunes along our coast. DEP needs to enforce coastal violations, especially with development in the wrong places and that encroaches on dunes. Dunes are critically important for property protection and the environment, especially during storm surges.
New Jersey continues to promote development in flood prone and wetland areas, which makes the consequences of weather events more extreme and places more people in harm’s way. As a result of Hurricane Irene oil leaks, chromium pollution, toxic waste from chemical plants along rivers, raw sewage, and polluted stormwater runoff entered our waterways. We need to not only limit development but we need development with less pavement and impervious cover and not allow hazardous facilities in flood prone areas.
While FEMA has developed new maps that show how flooding impacting are now further reaching, Governor Christie has not adopted those more protective maps. The administration has failed to upgrade FEMA mapping because they do not want to limit development in those areas. By not fixing those maps people do not know they live in flood prone areas and do not get flood insurance, costing the tax payers more money.
Governor Christie weakened land use tools within the DEP that prevent sprawl in flood prone and wetland areas. His administration has rolled back the stormwater and flood hazard rules, removing key protections.
Governor Christie has stopped progress made under previous administrations on adaptation to climate change and sea level rise and hazard planning. Important studies on impacts to the Delaware Bay Shore and protecting critical infrastructure across the state have been buried by the Christie administration. Governor Christie even eliminated the Office of Climate Change which played a role producing the reports.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. As we rebuild the Jersey Shore we need to do it in a way that better protects life, property, and environmentally sensitive areas and maintains the character of the local community. We cannot continue placing our neighbors in harm’s way.