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DEP Coastal Rule Changes are for the Worse

Date : Thu, 18 Apr 2013 11:15:19 -0400

For Immediate Release
April 18, 2013 Contact: Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club, 609-558-9100

DEP Coastal Rule Changes are for the Worse

DEP released emergency CAFRA changes today.The administration in rebuilding for Hurricane Sandy is hiding behind these proposed changes to CAFRA.Under this proposal development can be done by permit by rule without an application to the Department of Environmental Protection.This will allow for new construction and even the building of sewer lines for pump outs without permits or oversight.Even the permit by rule authorizes sediment sampling for dredging.Many of the dredged spoils may be contaminated due to what happened during the storm.We could be causing problems later by moving this dredged material and not disposing of it properly. The rules are fairly long and detailed and we will put out more information.

"This rule perpetuates the broken system of the past.Instead of moving forward we are really moving backward since the world has changed since Superstorm Sandy.Instead of fixing the problems in the CAFRA program to protect our coast the administration is proposing new rules that weaken oversight and environmental protection along our coast.These rules will allow for new construction, dredging as well as other projects without permitting, public input, or proper review.We are concerned that we may end up with more problems later," *said Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club*. These rules were written behind closed doors without public input and are being rushed out and automatically adopted to get around public review and we have serious concerns with these rules because we are waiving oversight and weakening standards as part of rule process.There is no reason for this to be an emergency rule, it is being done to prevent public input. Many of the projects we are rebuilding will be done by permit by rule which really aren't permits you just follow guidelines and if you do you automatically get it.It lets you do things without permits if you follow requirements, there is not necessarily reviews or inspections. This could jeopardize FEMA funding since FEMA will only reimburse lawful projects that do not violate environmental laws.

"They already adopted the rules through emergency process so there is little public review or input and makes it difficult to change the rules.If we don't fix the rules now we will not be able to fix the coast- we need strong rules to rebuild properly," said Jeff Tittel. There are positives in the rule.One is called living shorelines which allows for the restoration of natural systems which calls for guidelines but this seems to be in conflict with sections of the rule on engineering and automatic rebuilding.Since it is voluntary and there is no overall plan for the coast it may sound good but may never actually happen.The rules call for dunes, however they are engineered dunes and do not work as well.What they really are are a series of berms made out of sand and will not work as well.They are going to have a dune maintenance program but it is not clearly defined. The DEP is eliminating oversight and transparency when it comes ot all types of projects related to Sandy.We end up waiving environmental standards and we may end up with a lot of problems later.Instead of fixing CAFRA and protecting us better from sea level rise instead we are waiving standards which we could end up building projects that will end up causing more problems later. It also allows for more structural and engineered projects along the coast which may not work long term or create problems in other places such as the use of sea walls and rebuilding bulkheads instead of restoring natural systems. It allows you to rebuild in same place and location as just got destroyed instead of restoring natural systems or making them more resilient. It automatically allows you to rebuild existing structures in the same footprint.It allows for some expansions and even relocation of existing structures without triggering new permitting. You are allowed to expand a building by 400 sq. ft. or relocate a building toward the landward side of a parcel without a permit. This should be a concern because mistakes can happen. This may be a good idea to be flexible on lot however it needs to have clear standards and guidance and we are concerned it could exceed statutory authority or violate the Stafford Act. We are leaving the rebuilding of our coast to engineering firms.Given their recent track record we should be concerned about the lack of oversight.

"The rules do not deal with sea level rise or climate adaptation which is a major failure of this proposal. There is no regional planning or fixing CAFRA mapping.They so have to do elevations but we are essentially doing the same thing in the same place in the same way and expecting a different outcome.We are continuing the failed policies of the past maybe a little elevated instead of building a more sustainable future," said Jeff Tittel. Instead of fixing CAFRA, eliminating loopholes, limiting impervious cover, and restoring and rebuilding natural systems, these rules are really the status quo. There are no environmental standards for managing stormwater, to require green building codes or roofs, not to use tropical woods on boardwalks.There is nothing about restoration or limiting impervious cover.It is not about building better or smarter, it is about trying to rebuild the past and maybe elevate it.The concern is that this is not going to make us more resilient for the next storm. We are concerned:

-This rule further reinforces the bad beach access rules.

"Under these rules we will be spending a lot of public money to keep people out of beaches that belong to them and they are paying to rebuild," said Jeff Tittel.

-This rule proposal does not fix the CAFRA mapping or reflect the environmentally sensitive features on the ground or new flood maps.This will still allow for sewers and overdevelopment in environmentally sensitive and high hazard areas. This continues the weakening that already are happening.Following the Hurricane, DEP Commissioner Bob Martin signed an Administrative Consent Order waiving compliance with CAFRA, Flood Hazard Area, and wetlands protections for infrastructure rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy.Under the ACO infrastructure will be rebuilt in the same vulnerable areas that were just destroyed. The ACO waives environmental standards while discouraging better planning.

"We are concerned this is part of the administration's ongoing weakening of environmental protections.They are using the storm to weaken protections instead rebuilding our coast in abetter, smarter way.Areas where we protected the environment, did not allow for overdevelopment, fared better in the storm.Instead of fixing the problem we are perpetuating the failed policies of the past," said Tittel. "If we don't do it right in rebuilding the coast, we put more people and property in harm's way and might not get the chance for funding to do it better in the future." View the rule here: http:www.nj.gov/dep/rules/proposals/20130416a.pdf<a>

-- 
Kate Millsaps
Conservation Program Coordinator
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
609-656-7612
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Received on 2013-04-18 08:15:19

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