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Enviros Present Principles for Sandy Recovery

Date : Fri, 14 Dec 2012 13:05:02 -0500

For Immediate Release
December 13, 2012 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

Enviros Present Principles for Sandy Recovery Today over 20 environmental groups from across the state are coming together to call for better environmental and safety standards as we rebuild in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.NJ Sierra Club is joining the NJ Environmental Federation, ANJEC, NJ Environmental Lobby, Environment New Jersey and other groups.Thousands of people across New Jersey were affected by Hurricane Sandy with New Jersey continuing to feel the impacts of Hurricane Sandy as communities clean up the wreckage and hundreds are left without homes. Now we need protect these families from the impacts of climate disruption and sea level rise.In New Jersey we deserve strong action by our leaders to help reduce the likelihood and severity of future disasters.

"In the aftermath of the storm we must all pull together to help New Jersey rebuild and to protect us from future climate disruptions. We can either repeat the mistakes of the past or together move the state forward towards a smarter and better future. We can protect the environment and grow our economy through better planning, clean energy, and enhanced environmental protections," *stated Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. *

Jeff continued, "If we follow these principles we can have a brighter future down the shore.We need to implement green building codes, invest in renewable energy, restore natural systems like dunes, fight climate change and adapt to sea level rise.As we rebuild we need to better coordinate regional and state collaborations." The areas hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy are the areas have long been vulnerable to flooding and storm surges and nothing was done to increase protections in those areas.Climate scientist and environmentalists have been worried for years about overdevelopment on barrier islands along our coasts.A study by Rutgers University four years ago found that given the storm surges as a result of climate change, 9% of New Jersey's land area could be under water.Some of these areas are the fastest growing places in New Jersey and others are home to critical infrastructure such as Newark Airport, nuclear power plants, electrical generation plants, sewer plants, chemical plants, and transportation hubs.We have failed to protect this vital infrastructure, from storm surges.

"We have to understand the full impacts of Sandy and what changes we need to make to prevent this type of devastation in the future. We need to look at what we have done in the past, what worked, and what needs to be fixed. We also need to hold those accountable for actions that may have caused the storm to have a bigger impact on the people of New Jersey than it should have. More importantly we need to put in place those programs and changes to make sure we do not get impacted again," said Jeff Tittel. We need our leaders to come up with better polices to address the impacts of flooding and climate change on our coast and flood prone areas.It is going to take partnership and tough choices on limiting development in flood prone areas, moving people out of harm's way and developing real comprehensive programs to reduce greenhouse gases and address climate change.We hope resources will be given to help families in New Jersey rebuild and that Governor Christie starts to takes the steps necessary to protect us from climate change with its storm surcharges and sea level rise. With so many houses and businesses destroyed we must begin the process to rebuild our coasts. We can either continue with failed policies of the past or we can develop our coast in a way that helps protect people, property, and the environment. We can start building better and smarter along our coast, which will not only help our tourism industry to recover, but can help to ensure that we have a coast for future generations. The lesson from this hurricane is that as we move forward we can change things and help protect people and property from future storms and lesson their impacts. This the best way New Jersey can rebuild and go forward into the 21^st century.

"We can continue the mistakes of the past leading to more devastation and more problems down the road or do it better and smarter. We can rebuild in ways that will actually protect our coasts for future generations as we grow our economy and keep the tourists coming down the shore. We need to change our policies and practices when we rebuild," said Jeff Tittel.

_Principles_

LeadershipThe State has the responsibility, obligation and power to protect life and property.Every community (human and ecological) is different, but every community operates as a part of a whole; the State must use its power -- of regulation and finances -- to make our people safe, communities resilient, and environment protected.

Knowledge**The State must ensure that the recovery process engages in a rigorous and transparent assessment and understanding of risks and vulnerabilities that led to our Hurricane-devastated coastline and which leaves us vulnerable to future disaster. Meaningful, informed, and transparent public participation is vital for this assessment.For this process to work, both the public and our elected decision-makers must have access to the most accurate data, up-to-date science, and informed experts.

Resiliency**Public and private actions within the recovery must lead to resilient communities; communities which, through restoration of the natural coastal environment and rebuilding informed by observed and future risks, take steps to minimize risks from all hazards, including storms and sea level rise.The State, as well as local governments, must assess the impact of the storm and, when rebuilding, must take into account storm hazard history and reasonably foreseeable future change.

Public Health Recovery actions must address the immediate need for public health protection from water and air degradation.Raw sewage, chemical and oil spills, hazardous materials and mold, and debris removal, and untreated effluent and emissions have created a significant public health emergency state-wide. Clean-up and remediation, especially in vulnerable communities, must be accompanied by clear, and easily-accessible communication of health risks and safety resources.The immediate notification of the public of threats to public health and welfare must become the norm, state-wide.

Improvements**Recovery and rebuilding provides an opportunity to fix chronic development-related problems such as inadequate stormwater management, substandard sewage infrastructure and treatment, degraded natural habitats, and publicly inaccessible waterfronts.Improvements must be to the infrastructure which has held back the state's overall environmental quality and the economies dependent thereupon.

FundingFunds must be directed to restoring, enhancing and protecting the environment."Green" requirements will lead to greater resiliency and more steadfast economic and environmental recovery.When disbursing public funds, creating incentives for private funds, or constructing development-inducing infrastructure, decision-makers should:

·Promote natural resource dependent economies;

·Require softening the shorelines, and the restoration of wetlands, oyster reefs, floodplains, stream corridors, and other habitat and barrier islands;

·Incorporate green infrastructure and low impact development approaches throughout the State;

·Be public in nature, conditioned and coordinated for the public's benefit; and

·Enhance public access under the principles of the Public Trust Doctrine.

Local SupportRequire community-based climate change planning strategies based on outreach to local councils, civic organizations, and grass roots organizations to help communities plan for emergencies and to build support for infrastructure changes.

A New NormalBarrier beaches, dune systems and stream corridors are, by their nature, constantly changing.Such fluctuations should be taken into account when investment decisions are made for rebuilding businesses, homes, and infrastructure. Strategic retreat from high storm-surge and flooding risk areas, as well as conversion of these vulnerable areas to parkland through public acquisition, should be considered state-wide.

PlanningState and regional collaboration and coordination is necessary to make recovery and resiliency cost-effective and efficient; rebuilding and restoring the State must be done according to well-balanced plans and programs.

Climate Change**Smart design, green infrastructure, and promotion of ecosystem services will make communities more resilient, protecting people, economies and the environment; those same ideals can and should be used to reduce the State's greenhouse gas pollution and carbon footprint as the exacerbation of climate change will lead to short- and long-term economic losses, statewide vulnerability, and less-resilient communities.Renewable energy, coupled with water and energy conservation and efficiency, will make resiliency affordable and achievable, as well as mitigate future risks.

"As we continue to understand the devastation and impacts of Hurricane Sandy we are going to need to change things in New Jersey.In addition to relief aid we need our leaders to come up with better polices to address the impacts of flooding and climate change on our coast and flood prone areas.It is going to take partnership and tough choices on limiting development in flood prone areas, moving people out of harm's way and developing real comprehensive programs to reduce greenhouse gases and protect us from climate change and sea level rise," said Jeff Tittel.

-- 
Kate Millsaps
Conservation Program Coordinator
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
609-656-7612
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