Hurricane Jose Proves We’re Not Stronger Than Storms
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ATLANTIC STRONG – Sierra New Jersey Reports 9.19.2017 Hurricane Jose may be far off the coast but it’s still doing damage here in New Jersey. In Belmar, a Belmar Fishing Club pier that was rebuilt after Hurricane Sandy was damaged because of Jose’s intense waves. Belmar’s entire mile-long stretch of boardwalk had to be replaced following Sandy and cost $9.2 million to rebuild in 2013. New Jersey has failed to implement a proper comprehensive plan to deal with sea level rise and proposed a sea wall that will increase erosion and flooding.
“Hurricane Jose is far off the coast and yet the Jersey shore is seeing damage from localized flooding, erosion, and even a pier in Belmar being destroyed. Climate change means that weather events, storm surges, and sea level rise is only going to get worse. If we continue to rebuild to old standards, we will continue to lose these projects. The money that we put into rebuilding will be washed out to sea over and over again. We must be building our coastal infrastructure to withstand future storm events and the changing intensity of the ocean. We must also be encouraging coastal buyouts and holistic methods to create communities that can withstand these increasingly dangerous storms,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “The destruction we’re already seeing from Hurricane Jose shows our coastal failures.”
A study by analysts at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has revealed that the threats of sea level rise are worse than we originally thought. The study warms that nearly 170 communities in less than 20 years and as many as 670 by the end of the century will face “chronic inundation” due to sea level rise. This includes many coastal communities as well as major metropolitan areas such as Newark and Elizabeth. The study suggests New Jersey implement more responsible development along our coasts and flood-prone areas.
“New Jersey has been hit hard by the effects of climate change and sea level rise, including increased storm events. They list 21 communities from the Jersey Shore to rural Delaware Bayshore to our largest cities in the Meadowlands that are at risk. The study says that 40% of oceanfront communities on the East coast will face chronic flooding and possible retreat by 2100. New Jersey is second only to Louisiana in terms of chronic inundation predicated over the next century with most of this chronic flooding encroaching from the bayside of barrier islands,” said Jeff Tittel. “We must be working to incorporate updated scientific data in our planning to be more resilient against future changes. Otherwise, we’ll be losing billions of dollars when this infrastructure fails and we have to recover from it.”
Hard infrastructure such as steel sea walls won’t work in the long-run, especially when they are built without proper dune systems. Restoring natural systems protects property and is environmentally beneficial. In order to deal with storms, there needs to be an overall comprehensive approach including the need to elevate structures and move them back from the water’s edge. Restoring natural features like stream buffers. Also, regional storm water planning and developing new flood storage areas will prevent further development in flood pone areas.
“As bay flooding gets worse and sea levels increase, hard infrastructure will fail during future storm surges. What DEP should be doing to deal with climate change is create flood storage areas, move people out of harm’s way, stop flooding vulnerable areas, and elevate to safe levels. Instead of protecting the shore, Christie Administration has put more people at risk. Projects like sea walls have wasted important federal funds, while could have used the money for buyouts. These projects have given people a false hope. We need to have a holistic approach to storm surges,” said Jeff Tittel. “The other problem is while they are pumping all this sand on the beach we are not sure where the sand is coming from. This could do more damage to the environment because it could be taken from mounds and shallows that impact fisheries and the health of our waterways.”
One of the lessons of Hurricane Sandy is weakening environmental standards and waiving protections will end up causing more damage, hurting the economy and environment.
The Christie Administration has replaced beaches without dunes because they do not believe in the science of climate change. This just means the sand will wash out with the next storm. Places where we actually had stronger protections in place fared much better during the storm. Without addressing sea level rise the frequency of severe storms, we are wasting money.
“We must be sure to rebuild in a way that incorporates future projects of climate effects such as storm surges and sea level rise. New Jersey suffers from sea level rise and climate impacts more than most states and revoking this rule puts people in harm’s way. We’re already seeing the effects of climate change with increased instances of extreme storm events and droughts. We’re now 17 times more likely to be hit with a major storm surge over the next century. We have so many low-lying and vulnerable areas, not just along the coast but in places like Jersey City and Perth Amboy, that would be especially at risk,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Without considering changing climate, they’ll be building infrastructure that will get destroyed. Instead of promoting unintelligent development on our coasts, we should be developing an overall comprehensive approach for resiliency and coastal planning.”