We’ve reached the end of another summer that brought millions of people to the Jersey Shore. Visitors swam in the ocean, fished the bays, boated, walked the boardwalks, dined at waterfront restaurants, and enjoyed New Jersey living at its best.
The Jersey Shore generates $22 billion in tourism dollars each year, accounts for over $2 billion in tax revenue, and provides jobs for more than 132,000 people. Properties in New Jersey’s four oceanfront counties are collectively valued at over $300 billion.
Yet, despite all these benefits to the state, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) appears determined to drive people away from the shore with a new policy: Retreat. DEP is ostensibly pursuing this policy in the name of protecting the public from the threat of climate change, but the scientific facts belie that.
Having lived through Superstorm Sandy, we all know what nature can do to our coastal communities. Sandy also reminded us how precious the Jersey Shore is to the fabric of our life in the Garden State. That is why we rebuilt our beaches and communities – and did so with far more resilience so that we could withstand the next superstorm as best as possible to stave off Mother Nature. We know we have more resiliency measures to do.
But the DEP no longer wants us to just protect the Jersey Shore. It wants us to start looking for other places to live. And it wants us to start looking to move as early as next year. Is climate change such an immediate threat that retreat is warranted? The latest science says: “No.”
We can agree on basic facts. We know that sea levels are rising due to climate change, both anthropogenic and natural, and we know that New Jersey, like most of the Eastern Seaboard, is sinking. Sea levels have risen in New Jersey about 1 foot over the last 100 years, primarily because of land compaction due to vestiges of the last ice age. There is almost no doubt that we will lose at least another foot to compaction over the next 100 years. This is inevitable. What is in doubt, however, is how much more sea levels will rise beyond 1 foot.
The DEP is predicting seas will rise 5 feet by the year 2100 based on one non-peer reviewed report with outdated data and outlier assumptions. DEP regulations founded on outlier assumptions will make flood mitigation projects so cost-prohibitive that no work will be done at all, leaving communities vulnerable to the more realistic 1–2-foot sea level rise that could have been protected against had DEP permitted less expensive mitigation projects to move forward.
Why is DEP using this report to force people to retreat from the Jersey Shore and as justification to deny new shore protection measures?
NJBIA engaged the Climate Forecast Applications Network (CFAN) to review the “science” being used by the DEP. CFAN determined DEP’s projections of sea level rise were out of step with the latest mainstream climate science. In fact, CFAN did its own analysis of expected sea level rise in New Jersey, and using the latest scientific studies, projected a 1–3-foot rise by 2100. NJBIA is calling for adoption of a reasonable 2-foot standard. If sea levels rise faster, we have nearly 80 years to adjust.
DEP should not be forcing such a fundamental shift in our way of life that impacts the economic well-being of so many homeowners and businesses without significantly more public input and legislative approval. And DEP definitely should not be basing its decision on one flawed study. DEP should follow science and save our shore.
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