Protection site

LTE: NJ storm protection rules blocked put people and property at risk

For the editor:

A year after the remnants of Hurricane Ida devastated New Jersey, state officials have failed to better protect people and property from increasingly frequent and severe weather despite promises from the Governor Phil Murphy to make impactful changes quickly. As a result, activists, campaigners, scientists and experts are increasingly sounding the alarm bells.

“New Jersey is ground zero for some of the worst impacts of climate change. It is the greatest threat we face to our communities, our economies and our way of life. We have no choice but to build our resilience,” NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Shawn LaTourette told a joint Senate and Assembly hearing Aug..

Environmentalists and city officials have launched a campaign calling on Murphy to speed up critical, long-promised and delayed stormwater and flood rules. People and property need better protection given our climate, flooding and precipitation patterns. Storm volumes are significantly different now since the state last updated its data in the 1990s. www.njpactnow.org is collecting signatures calling for the rules to be released and has an Instagram feed to collect photographs and stories of the flood’s impact on local residents.

On September 1, 2021, Ida caused approximately $95 billion in property damageincluding $83 million in damage to New Jersey public schoolsand 30 deaths in New Jersey. Trains and motorists were stranded, and tornadoes and flooding destroyed homes and businesses across the state. First responders have performed hundreds of high personal risk water rescues, including three Mercer County police officers who were swept away by floodwaters. FEMA has declared 11 counties major disaster areas.

Back then LaTourette noted“Are we seeing flooding in areas where we’ve never seen it before? The answer is a resounding yes. Ida was a remnant of a tropical depression. A very big storm wiped out communities. This is the new reality.

Robert Kopp, a climatologist at Rutgers University and a UN expert on global warming, at the same time called Ida a “direct impact” of climate change adding “it didn’t come out of nowhere, it added to [named summer of 2021 storms] Henri and Fred and Elsa… we can expect… more extreme weather events.

The governor accepted in response to Henri“I think…New Jersey…is going to have to adjust the playbook…It’s not just a flood…we’re going to see more and not less” and again a few weeks later in response to Ida: “We have to update our playbook for sure. We have to mount it” more needs to be done to address the continuing threat of flooding“We need to make a quantum leap, as a state and as a country. We have an infrastructure that is built for a different reality.

Responding to increased deaths and property damage caused by more frequent severe storms, DEP announced in May it would pass rules in June to correct archaic flood maps and rainfall data that have not been updated since 1999 and include data dating back to 1899 as the basis for regulatory decision-making. Murphy ordered these long-delayed rules in January 2020 due to the growing threat of climate change.

However, three months after the last of many broken promises regarding these rules, the Murphy administration has not released or even discussed them publicly. During the hearing earlier this month, LaTourette hinted at the cause“We need to modernize our flood standards. We can’t accept developers telling lies and running around with their hair on fire because DEP wants to change a rule.

The update to these rules requires new buildings and roads to be constructed outside of current floodplains or at least above current flood levels – at least three feet above the 100 flood mark. years currently mapped. It also calls for updating standards for stormwater systems to retain floodwaters and release them slowly after heavy rains to minimize flooding.

NJ Business and Industry Association (BIA) Opposes DEP Proposal suggesting: 1) “no imminent peril exists” despite the imminence of Ida and the scientific consensus of a climate emergency; and 2) the rules would harm the economically disadvantaged, even though affordable housing advocates have not raised these objections or the unfairness of siting affordable housing on floodplains. But advocates, experts and officials disagree with the BIA.

“New Jersey is surrounded by water on three sides. For many residents, urban and rural, coastal and inland, flooding is a serious disruption, resulting in billions of dollars in property damage and life-threatening consequences. We must ensure that new developments do not put people at risk and reflect the best scientific knowledge available to us. Now is the time for the Murphy administration to move forward with these rules,” said Doug O’Malley, Director of Environment New Jersey.

These new rules are particularly important in times of drought or limited rainfall. “Drought means the ground is like cement and rainwater cannot be absorbed. Therefore, when it rains, the floods are worse. The combination of the two during hurricane season could be disastrous,” said Amy Goldsmith, director of NJ State’s Clean Water Action. “And putting affordable housing in flood prone areas is just plain unfair!”

“Precipitation data currently used to forecast storms and design stormwater systems is woefully outdated, including old data up to 1999,” said Jim Waltman, executive director of the Watershed Institute. “Over the past few decades, our storms have gotten bigger and more dangerous, but our current rules allow builders to keep celebrating like it’s 1999. We need bold action to increase protection for residents, businesses and the state environment.

“These 100-year and 5-year floods now occur less than every 10 years. The climate has changed so much over the past few decades that our flood hazard rules and maps are significantly outdated,” said Jennifer Coffey, executive director of the Association of NJ Environmental Commissions. “We need Governor Murphy to follow through on his commitments to climate resilience and release the DEP’s common sense proposal to keep new homes and businesses out of places we know are flooded.”

“Inland flooding patterns are changing drastically and New Jersey is no stranger to this with places that have never flooded before now suffering from flash flooding. This change in pattern combined with the extreme drought conditions we are currently experiencing gives us the unprecedented flooding we are seeing all over the world with the latest episodes in Kentucky and a few days ago in Texas,” said Anjuli Ramos-Busot, NJ State Director. of the Sierra Club. “We need storm and flood protection rules now. New Jersey can’t weather another super storm without the best possible protection and resilience. »

“Floods too often affect our families and businesses, and we can’t wait any longer to make the changes needed to protect our communities,” said Ed Potosnak, executive director, New Jersey LCV. “This is exactly why we need NJ Protecting Against Climate Threats (NJPACT) regulations, to stop the construction industry from putting profits before public safety.”

“If the flood hazard and emergency stormwater provisions were in place when Ida struck, lives would have been saved,” said Elliott Ruga, director of policy and communications at the New Jersey Highlands Coalition. “Had the DEP adopted them as planned as part of the emergency rulemaking, they would have been in place before the Next Ida. But development interests prevailed with the governor, who derailed emergency adoption. Now it’s a bet whether more lives will be lost.

The rules are offered through New Jersey’s Flood Hazard Area Control Act, which “empowers the DEP to delineate and mark areas at risk of flooding…in the interests of safety, health and welfare. -being general of the population of the State”. Once the regulations are published, the public can submit comments.

“Entire neighborhoods were flooded during Ida. Seeing everyone’s possessions on their lawn, knowing they couldn’t afford to replace those items hurts me,” said Fred Stine, community action coordinator, Delaware Riverkeeper Network. “It is often the poorest who are most at risk. No one should have to suffer this financial loss and hardship. Anyone who wants to build houses in a flooded area – whether on a map or not – invites disaster and puts first responders in danger.

“It’s not a question of whether our state will see another Ida-like storm – it’s a question of when. Unless the Murphy administration acts soon, we will suffer billions of dollars in additional damages. and lose more loved ones in the next big storm. Designating the safest places to build is a critical part of modernizing the state’s environmental policies and protecting the most vulnerable New Jerseyans from irresponsible developers. looking to save money and make a quick buck It’s time for Governor Murphy to protect New Jersey families from the worst of the climate crisis by releasing the floodplain rules and the rest of the PACT regulations said Alex Ambrose, transportation and climate policy analyst, NJ Policy Perspective.

“Whether on the coast or inland, one thing that all of New Jersey shares is the destructive effects of more frequent and severe storms,” ​​said Bill Kibler, director of policy for Raritan Headwaters. “This is already an emergency, and the governor cannot wait for the next deadly crisis to act. We need to have new rules to protect us from climate change and we need to have them now!”

Submitted by Watershed Institute.
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