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Sandy Rebuilding The Focus Of Special Joint Hearing [AUDIO]

Building on lessons we’ve learned from Superstorm Sandy, we have to be smarter when it comes to protecting the Jersey Shore and every other area of the state too.

Mario Tama, Getty Images

That’s the takeaway from a special joint hearing yesterday with the State Senate and Assembly Environment Committees.

“We’re looking at a shore-wide Master Plan because the truth of the matter is it’s been more than 30 years since we’ve updated our shore Master Plan,” explains Senate Environment panel chairman, Bob Smith. “As we start looking at either dunes, or beach replenishment or sea walls it should be done in a coordinated fashion where we actually have a plan.”

The lawmakers are also discussing the idea of doubling the amount of coastal protection money New Jersey spends annually from $25 million to $50 million a year for the next three years. The plan could also ease the financial pain for local towns. The projects typically cost local taxpayers $1 million or more.

“The overwhelming, widespread damage of Superstorm Sandy has raised a bevy of significant concerns in regard to land use, home construction, flooding hazards and beach protection for the people of New Jersey,” says Assembly Environment Committee chairperson, Grace Spencer. “We do recognize that there are several projects presently underway. Before we continue to invest our money we must be sure the actions we are taking going forward will surely protect the people of New Jersey long term.”

Top Enviro Says More Needs To Be Done

The package of bills concern the rebuilding and planning after Superstorm Sandy. One of the state’s leading environmentalists says the package is the first step in dealing with the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, but he thinks there are important key pieces that are missing including closing loopholes and looking at the shore more holistically.

“Nature may have brought the storm, but many decisions government made ended up making the impacts of the storm worse,” says Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “The package of bills is incomplete although some are good we need to make sure to do more to encourage regional planning, green building, public access as well as helping to protect urban areas. This is an important first step, but still have a lot to do if we want to rebuild better and smarter.”

Buying Out Flood-Prone Homes

Mark Mauriello, former commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection says some oceanfront homes can be relocated further inland on space vacated by homeowners who take buyouts, but he’s not proposing a specific funding level. Mauriello currently works for a real estate company.

“We have an opportunity to maybe pull back a little,” explains Mauriello. “Where the homes are not there as a result of the devastation, that’s the opportunity where we can get folks out of the hazard and restore the property to the natural state. Start offering folks a solution that doesn’t involve rebuilding in the same area. I’ve talked to families in Ortley Beach who want out.”

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