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Stronger Than the Next Storm”

Date : Thu, 15 Aug 2013 13:32:10 -0400

For Immediate Release

August 15, 2013

Contact: Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club, 609-558-9100

Stronger Than the Next Storm?

The Senate and Assembly Environment Committees will hold a joint hearing today to hear testimony on the status of rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Sandy.We think this hearing is important as a reality check for the state environment after what has happened with Hurricane Sandy.Many are still suffering, are out of their homes, and facing huge financial costs and our hearts and helping hands go out to them.Unfortunately it may take a long time before they are made whole again and our coast is rebuilt.

"We are glad the Environment Committees are holding a hearing on the status of ongoing Sandy rebuilding efforts.But the most important question is: Are we stronger than the next storm?

Almost 10 months after Sandy, New Jersey has not learned the mistakes of the past or changed the status quo.We seem to be doing some of the same mistakes over again when it comes to rebuilding our coast and protecting our state from floods and storms," said Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club.

There is no planning involved for infrastructure or rebuilding.We need to set up programs and mapping to deal with sea level rise, climate change, and adaptation and mitigation for those impacts.We should be looking at elevating, hardening or moving vital infrastructure to help protect it and tie it to fixing other problems like combined sewer overflows and renewable energy and green infrastructure.More effort needs to be made to coordinate efforts between municipalities and government agencies on rebuilding shared infrastructure.As we rebuild, it is an opportune time for municipalities to look at consolidating services and key infrastructure and to do regional planning around key infrastructure such as sewer lines.There is no planning for pulling back from environmentally sensitive areas.More planning for restoring natural systems and adding dunes along our coast should be undertaken.

"With all the people of New Jersey that have been devastated by the recent storms, for the Governor to try to ignore climate change is outrageous, dangerous, and puts people at risk.If we do not deal with climate change as we rebuild we will be wasting millions of dollars and putting people in harm's way,"said Jeff Tittel. "If we do not care about climate change when we rebuild we not only jeopardize future federal funding but will continue to put people in harm's way.The Governor cannot fix the problem when denies the role of climate change in impacting our state."

A bill to remove loopholes from the Coastal Area Facility Review Act
(CAFRA) has been unable to move.The bill was released from the Assembly Environment Committee but has not been posted for a vote in the full Assembly and a Senate counterpart has not been introduced.A3921
(Barnes) is especially important as we rebuild our coast more resiliently because it will redefine developments that need permits under the CAFRA has loopholes that allow some inappropriate coastal development to move forward and would require DEP to review more development proposals under the coastal regulations.

"Instead of moving forward, we are going backward by not closing these loopholes and not rebuilding better and smarter.Some of the worst developments that have had the biggest environmental impacts have happened due to loopholes in the CAFRA regulations. Up and down the coast there are places that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy due to overdevelopment and overdevelopment happened because of the loopholes. Now we need to fix CAFRA by closing those loopholes," said Jeff Tittel.

Last week the Governor signed legislation to fund the Environmental Infrastructure Trust for clean water and drinking water infrastructure projects around the state. However this law does include adaption planning and mitigation for climate change, sea level rise, and storm surges. It does not come up witha plan for adaption or mitigation for these facilities to protect themselves from storm surges or sea level rise. There are no guidelines for improvements like raising or guarding the facilities from floods.

There has been no comprehensive plan for buyouts in our coastal areas and no programs for funding for buyouts.$300 million will be used to buyout homes in Middlesex County including Sayreville and South River, which will help people in Middlesex County, but there are still people around the state and along the shore that need to be bought out.Buyouts have to be tied to a plan where we identify high hazard areas that should be bought out. By using science and planning we can selectively come up with areas to be bought out helping to create new flood storage areas that then protect other properties. We can also then have areas to restore wetlands and other natural systems and provide land for dune construction.We need a plan for the coast to identify the most vulnerable areas and where the buyout program should be focused.We also could set up a Transfer of Development program to move people from high hazard areas to other areas in the same community or local foreclosed housing.Over 40,000 people were displaced as a result of Sandy and should be offered the option of a buyout to move out of harm's way.

Many of the needed policies that would help us rebuild better and stronger would best be implemented under a Coastal Commission as proposed in A3920 (Barnes).The bill passed the Assembly Environment Committee in May but a Senate counterpart has not been introduced.This bill is crucial to make the rebuilding process moretransparent and open to the public and incorporate more 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.Regional planning will ensure we can have a shore for future generations.Without it we are condemned to the mistakes of the past.

The State needs to do more to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to reduce our contribution to future extreme weather events induced by climate change.The State should require better building codes to help people save money and reduce pollution as we rebuild.We need legislation requiring the DCA to minimally require the adoption of the 2012 International IECC codes and the ICC Green Building Standards.The DCA must also require all buildings meet Energy Star tier three New Jersey Climate Choice Standards.Commercial buildings should meet LEED Silver standards and at least 20% above the ASHRAE 2010 rules, which would bring it in line with the 2013 rule that is coming out in September.Standards for rebuilding should include using green building codes, improved energy efficiency,green or blue roofs, and retrofitting stormwater basins.

The FEMA maps being used for rebuilding do not contain the latest flood information from Hurricane Sandy and do not include sea level rise or storm surges. We need to make sure that the FEMA maps use the most accurate data as we rebuild our shore communities to keep people out of harm's way in the future. We must not rush to rebuild before the science and planning is in place to protect people, infrastructure, and investments from the next storm. New Jersey's Flood Hazard Area rules allow for building one foot above the 100 year flood line where FEMA recommends 2 feet above free board.We recommend implementing the FEMA standard since it is more protective and will help address potential mistakes in mapping.

"We have to have a foundation based on sound science that looks at sea level rise and climate change and instead we are building on a foundation of sand that will be washed out with the next storm.The problem with the FEMA mapping is that it is like driving down the highway at 80 miles an hour and only looking in the rearview mirror,"
said Jeff Tittel

The lack of changes to critical policies comes despite mounting science on the future impacts of climate change.A recent DEP report documents increases in temperature, precipitation, and sea level rise in New Jersey and warns of severe coastal flooding by 2100.Once in a century storms and flooding could hit Atlantic City every year of two by that time.Rutgers has projected that by 2050 the sea level could rise 13-22 inches and by 2100 34 to 56 inches.The DEP further found that "sea level rise will lead to more frequent and extensive coastal flooding.Warming ocean waters have the potential to strengthen storms." Precipitation and extreme weather events are increasing significantly as well.

"The Legislature and the people of New Jersey should be demanding action on climate change and sea level rise.We need to first support the President's Action Plan on Climate and secondly we should be demanding that our state agencies begin doing the work they were previously doing on adaptation and mitigation and that the federal monies coming in for rebuilding should be going towards adaptation and mitigation, restoring natural systems and requiring green buildings and energy efficiency so that New Jersey will have a fighting chance," said Jeff Tittel.

After Sandy we called for the reforms below.The list has been updated to include if any action has been made to implement such a change.

There are critical policies and practices that we need to revise, create, and eliminate so that we can rebuild the coast in the right way and keep people and property safe.

  • Coastal Council. We need to create a coastal council to coordinate
    efforts to rebuild along the shore and to make ensure we protect
    vital infrastructure, do proper planning and zoning, and develop
    building codes.During the recovery, this body would help coordinate
    funding and regional rebuilding activities so that redevelopment in
    one town does not negatively impact neighboring communities.Bill
    not moving

  • Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Planning.New Jersey needs to
    adopt the new FEMA flood maps, update building codes, and start
    implementing adaptation and hazard planning along our coastto make
    sure we build in the right places using sound science and based on
    capacity of drinking water and wastewater. New FEMA maps have been
    adopted but not based on the latest science from Hurricane Sandy and
    not adopted into DEP regulatory programs, only for rebuilding.

A recent study found that by 2050 the sea level at Sandy Hook could rise by 21 to 35 inches, meaning water could move up to three feet inland.The study projected 6.5% to 9% of the state could be impacted by coastal flooding over the next 100 years.We need to incorporate these projections into state, regional, and municipal master plans and other planning documents.No movement.

We need to scrap the Strategic Plan and instead fix and update the State Plan, a plan that is based on carrying capacity analysis and natural resources. No movement.

  • Building Codes. As we rebuild we need to revise our building codes
    so structures stand up better to higher winds and flooding.We need
    to use metal bands or tie to hold down roof rafters and metal roofs
    instead of shingles.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.No changes.

  • Fix CAFRA.We need to close loopholes and change the impervious
    cover limits to allow less development in environmentally sensitive

Developments of less than 25 units in environmentally sensitive areas are currently exempt from CAFRA regulations.We need to close this loophole so that impervious cover limits and protections of sensitive features apply to new projects along our shore.This loophole creates a death of a thousand cuts.Bill introduced and passed Assembly Environment Committee.

We also need the DEP to do a better job of enforcing CAFRA violations, especially with development in the wrong places and that encroaches on dunes.Dunes are critically important for property protection and the environment.ACOE NY Office not requiring dunes in rebuilding

  • Infrastructure.We need to protect and rebuild vital infrastructure
    in the right places and rebuild dunes and coastal wetlands to
    protect against the impacts of future storms.

We need to look at renewable energy solutions and distributive generation to help prevent blackouts in the future.

We need an infrastructure assessment to determine where we need to upgrade infrastructure to meet the demands of rebuilding the shore as well as the rest of New Jersey.

No movement.The Legislature passed a bill dedicating $5 million to infrastructure improvements but did not mention climate change.

  • Catastrophic Insurance Pool.We cannot allow people to keep
    rebuilding in the same place and have tax payers foot the bill each
    time there is a storm.We need to put in place a catastrophic
    insurance pool as was done in Florida and other places so tax payers
    are not on the hook to cover all the costs. No movement.
  • Blue Acres Funding.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 need funding
    to preserve lands to create more dunes and areas for flood water
    storage.Federal funding used for buyouts in Raritan watershed, but
    no buyout program or funding for coastal communities
  • Coordinate Disaster Relief Funding Programs. FEMA will give you
    money to replace electronics and appliances but a homeowner must
    apply to a different program for money to elevate or move hot water
    heaters, furnaces, and air conditioners.We need to coordinate the
    programs so that when we rebuild and replace things we can protect
    them from the next storm.No movement.Where they has waived
    standards and rebuilt, people cannot get funding to elevate.

  • Prevention of Climate Change and Reduction of Greenhouse Gases.
    •The Governor pulled out of RGGI, is cutting our renewable and
    energy efficiency goals in the Energy Master Plan, delaying offshore
    wind, diverted over $800 million from the Clean Energy Fund to close
    budget gaps and is not implementing the Global Warming Response
    Act.No movement on reversing those policies.

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.There is still time to end the insanity and fix things at the shore.We can still be Jersey Strong if we do things smarter and better," said Jeff Tittel.

Kate Millsaps
Conservation Program Coordinator
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
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Received on 2013-08-15 10:32:10

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tel: 609 656 7612, fax 609 656 7618
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