NJ Officials Begin Planning for Climate Change Effects

By Christie Duffy

More rainy days, like the one we’re having today, are expected in our long-term future. According to the climate change report and that could mean more flooding.

“I think it’s an alarm bell going off,” said New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel.

More than 300 experts contributed to the report. According to the projections, by the year 2050, it will be 90 degrees or hotter outside for an additional 60 days per year. Other predictions include that there will be more frequent winter storms bringing more bitter cold and snow.

And more intense storms are anticipated along the coast as well, compounded by the threat of sea level rise. Rutgers scientists have projected the Jersey Shore will see the waters rise 1.5 feet by 2050 and to 3.5 feet by 2100.

All while the land in the northeast is actually sinking. Which means more of the population and property could be at risk.

So how are we preparing for climate change?

“For us it means not just putting things back the way they were,” said Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long.

In Sea Bright, the mayor is working with a non-profit called New Jersey Future.

“So that we are looking at the sea level rise maps as an example and considering future inundation patterns,” Long said.

One small way the borough is preparing is how they rebuild their public beach parking lot. Which was completely destroyed in Sandy. They’ll only be repaving half of it, covering the over half, with gravel, which is more permeable to water.

The mayor also points to plans to repair and rebuild the sea wall here to a uniform 20 feet across town. She says hundreds of volunteers turned out to replant scores of dunes. Around 40 homes here have been elevated above base flood elevation, plus two more feet, mandated by the town. Control panels for water pumps have also been lifted. And at Sea Bright’s most narrow point, a “managed retreat” is underway. This apartment building was sold to the state and will be turned into open space.

On a state level, the Department of Environmental Protection says there are no easy answers to questions about climate change preparedness, stating, “DEP incorporates planning for ‘potential’ climate change effects into all of our programs. As we rebuild from Sandy, for example, in some areas we have required elevations of homes and wet-proofing of buildings. The Army Corps of Engineers is improving the coastline to make it more resilient.”

“I think the state could probably be taking a stronger role. No community on its owns is equipped to deal with sea level rise,” said New Jersey Future Recovery and Planning Manager David Kutner.

“We made an office of climate change. Unfortunately under this administration, this all ended,” Tittel said.

The mayor of Sea Bright says both the state and the DEP has been supportive of their plans.