Former DEP Commissioner Warns of Unsustainable Storm Recovery Projects [AUDIO]
The state cannot be short-sighted in its storm recovery from Superstorm Sandy warns a former Department of Environmental Protection commissioner during a joint Senate-Assembly panel on the pace of rebuilding.
During Thursday’s panel in Atlantic City, Mark Mauriello, who served as commissioner under Gov. Jon Corzine, said New Jersey has to focus on sustainable projects that can continue even after the federal Sandy aid diminishes.
“We have to make sure we’re spending it on things that don’t come back to haunt us, once the federal money dries up and the beaches erode and we have these recurring storms.”
Mauriello was critical of projects that required constant funding, pointing out a proposed sea wall to protect Route 35 as well as the dune and beach nourishment projects across the shore. He said that while dunes are effective for protecting the coast, “building dunes out on the beach and pushing sand in the ocean is not necessarily going to be enough over the long term-it’s not sustainable.”
He said there are too many homes on the shore that are too close to the water, preventing the natural dune and protective systems from thriving.
“We’re going to keep spending the money on beach nourishment or sea walls, whatever it may be. We have to adapt differently and we have to pull back incrementally to get some space which we can sustain these natural systems.”
Mauriello called for the Blue Acres program to be extended to the Jersey Shore. “And that space can then be used to build sand dunes and restore dunes and on the bayside, restore wetlands and natural systems.”
However he criticized the current programs stringent requirements, which call for an entire community to be onboard with selling their homes. “We shouldn’t have to condition it on the town agreeing to do it, because the town’s interest isn’t exactly the property owner’s interest.”
Mauriello said overall more needs to be done to create an infrastructure that is ready to withstand a future of storm activity, that could be similar to Sandy.
“And we can’t think of everything being Sandy-proof because it will never be sandy proof, and I hate to say it but we’re not ‘Stronger than the Storm.’ We never were and we never will be, but we are smart and we can adapt.”