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Coastal Commission Released from Committee

Date : Mon, 13 May 2013 15:30:44 -0400

For Immediate Release
May 13, 2013 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

Coastal Commission Released from Committee As we move forward with rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy we need a process that is transparent and open to the public.This is not best achieved through a Czar but rather a Coastal Commission that looks at rebuilding the shore through regional planning.A Coastal Commission can fully implement adaptation and hazard planning, regional planning, green building codes, and taking steps to prevent future flooding.Establishing a Coastal Commission or Council would coordinate efforts to rebuild along the shore and ensure we protect vital infrastructure and properly plan and zone to keep people and property out of harm's way in the future. Many of the towns do not have funding or resources to do the kind of planning that is needed to rebuild after Sandy.Today the Assembly Environment Committee released A3920 (Barnes) which will establish a Coastal Commission. This is an important day for rebuilding our coast in a smarter and better way.This is the first real step in bringing regional planning to our coast to make sure we protect the environment while rebuilding the coast in a resilient way.If this bill passes it will make sure we have a coast for future generations," *said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.* The bill would establish a 19 member Coastal Commission.The Coastal Commission would oversee planning and approvals for development, land use, beach erosion and shore protection projects and the use of FEMA andHurricane Sandy reconstruction funding.The Commission would put together a Coastal Management Plan that would guide development and resource protection from Sandy Hook to Cape May.There would be two representatives from each of the 5 coastal counties and 9 representatives from around the state.

 "New Jersey has needed a Coastal Commission for decades to help ensure proper planning and environmental protection.After the devastation of Hurricane Sandy it has become even more important.We need to rebuild our coast in a smarter and better way and we cannot do that without regional planning and a Coastal Commission," said Jeff Tittel. During the Hurricane Sandy recovery, a Coastal Commission would help coordinate funding and regional rebuilding activities so that redevelopment in one town does not negatively impact neighboring communities.A Coastal Commission would better coordinate redevelopment, saving taxpayer money by not being redundant when it comes to infrastructure.We can fix environmental problems by taking a regional approach to stormwater, transportation, beach access, and other types of planning.

"By having a Coastal Commission we will end up saving taxpayers money, we can build better and smarter, and help prevent the pay-to-play culture from wasting tax payer money during rebuilding efforts.Regional planning will ensure we can have a shore for future generations.Without it we are condemned to the mistakes of the past," said Jeff Tittel. The oversight of a Coastal Commission will help limit waste, fraud, and abuse.We must not exclude the public from the rebuilding process and concentrate decision-making power to the office of the Czar, as this may result in environmental standards being waived.DEP Commissioner Bob Martin has already 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 is being rebuilt again in vulnerable places.This discourages planning that wouldprevent the damage from occurring again by elevating or moving infrastructure to a safer place. The Coastal Commission would address better planning and updating building codes.The Commission could adopt codes and standards that require structures to stand up better to higher winds and be built further back from flood prone areas.When we rebuild we need to not only rebuild more resiliently we need to use it as a way to fix problems of the past such as implementing green building codes, energy efficiency standards, retrofitting stormwater systems that do not work, improving beach access and creating bike paths.There are a lot of opportunities to improve the environment and economy of our coast. The Commission will also help coordinate on permitting and regulatory issues along the coast- it can help plan for buyouts and restoring natural systems. The bill eliminates the automatic rebuild provision in CAFRA which was a problem because you were rebuilding in the exact same spot.This will allow people to move their building around on the lot and allow the most hazardous areas to be bought out.This is an important change. The bill allows for the use of eminent domain with proper compensation so that the building of dunes and beach erosion management and coastal protection projects can move forward. Following the storm we need to enhance dunes and natural systems, and the Commission could oversee this process.In order for dunes to work properly, they need enough area and height and to be properly planted.The Coastal Commission could work to coordinate dune replenishment efforts to ensure best dune reconstruction practices are used.The Commission could also be charged with protecting and maintaining the dunes so that they continue to function. A Coastal Commission can help us prepare for the impacts of climate change.The National Climate Assessment released this month found that, "Even given the low end of sea level rise scenarios, and without assuming any changes in storms, the chance of what is now a 1-in-10-year coastal flood event in the Northeast could triple by 2100, occurring roughly once every 3 years, simply in response to higher sea levels."We need to begin adaptation and hazard planning to better protect and move people and property out of harm's way in preparation for such projected events. New Jersey has a strong tradition of protecting our most sensitive and important environmental areas through regional planning.In the Pinelands, Meadowlands, and Highlands regional commissions protect our natural resource while supporting compatible development in the right places.After Hurricane Sandy rebuilding and protecting the Jersey Shore through a Coastal Commission is more important than ever. Areas in the country that have regional planning and coordination do better economically and save tax payers money. Studies show they save money on infrastructure, plan better, and attract new businesses and more economic growth.

"Had special interests not blocked the Coastal Commission when it was first proposed by Governor Kean the impacts of Hurricane Sandy would not have been so severe.We would have protected natural resources and prevented certain areas from being overdeveloped, better protecting our coast and avoiding some of the devastation we have seen in Sandy.It is not too late and we have an opportunity now to fix the system that is broken with this legislation," said Jeff Tittel.

Kate Millsaps
Conservation Program Coordinator
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
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