‘F’ for New Jersey: Report cites bad planning for storms, climate change
With plenty of company, the Garden State has received a failing grade for its policies and plans in place to take on extreme weather events, climate change and shoreline erosion.
More than 60,000 New Jersey homes and properties are at risk to sea level rise by 2045, and poor levels of coastal protection won't do much to help, finds a report released in December by the Surfrider Foundation.
Nearly half the states assessed received a 'D' or 'F' grade. New Jersey, according to the report, has "bad" policies in the categories of sediment management, coastal armoring, development, and sea level rise.
"Hundreds of towns along the coast are making individual land use decisions without stringent permitting requirements and monitoring plans," the report reads. "Unfortunately, coastal preservation has taken a back seat."
More than half of New Jersey's total population resides in the state's coastal zone, and thousands more visit the area daily during the warmer months.
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said the state's been attempting to fight the impacts of climate change, rather than work with it.
"We put groins and jetties and seawalls, and we pump a lot of sand, and all the things we're doing really isn't working," Tittel told New Jersey 101.5. "Every time there's a storm, we see millions of dollars of sand going out to sea."
The report claims New Jersey relies too heavily on beach fill. Over the past three decades, more than a $1 billion has been spent on beach replenishment projects, according to the report.
Tittel said more extreme measures may be needed in the most vulnerable areas, such as the elevation of roads and buyouts of homes.
"The old Jersey Shore has to change to the new Jersey Shore, and it's going to take time," Tittel said. "We need to have a two-year, five-year and 50-year strategy for the shore."
Recognizing that isolated efforts will have limited effectiveness in a response to climate change, the state began work in October on a Coastal Resilience Plan. A summit brought hundreds of experts and representatives to Long Branch for initial conversations on the matter. The plan is intended as "a first step to put New Jersey on a path to resilience," the state Department of Environmental Protection website says.
The Surfrider Foundation report does acknowledge the summit, but says overdevelopment will make planning "extremely challenging" in New Jersey.
Jon Miller, research associate professor at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, said New Jersey's 'F' grade is "quite harsh" and "a bit dramatic."
"I think that some of the good things that New Jersey is doing is not necessarily getting enough credit," Miller said. "I personally think the state has been taking steps to improve their coastal resilience, especially since Sandy."
Outside of the statewide effort, Miller pointed to the NJ FRAMES project in coastal Monmouth County, which aims to better understand and address future flood vulnerability.
New Jersey was the only state in the Mid-Atlantic region to earn a failing grade in the Surfrider report. New York received a 'C+,' Maryland a 'B,' and both Delaware and Virginia a 'C.'