In its first major rewrite of coastal protection rules since Superstorm Sandy, New Jersey is proposing changes that would make it easier for some new or expanded development along the Jersey shore and the state’s urban waterways.
The state Department of Environmental Protection said it is acting to streamline regulations and cut red tape while maintaining environmental protections.
But some environmentalists say the rules are a gift to developers and will place more New Jerseyans in harm’s way during future storms, including major ones like Sandy.
“These revisions will add clarity to our regulatory processes and provide better predictability in the regulatory process to our constituents by eliminating unnecessary red tape,” said DEP Commissioner Robert Martin. “But they will not in any way affect our primary mission of protecting the natural resources that make our coastal areas such a wonderful place for living, working and enjoying.”
Nonsense, replied Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.
“Sandy was a disaster that hit our coast, and these rules are a disaster,” he said. “They will not only not protect us from future storms and sea level rise, they are actually encouraging more growth in areas that were devastated. These rules take the side of developers over the environment and even sound science. We have a chance to rebuild New Jersey smarter and better. Instead we are promoting sprawl and overdevelopment.”
Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society, said cutting bureaucracy can’t come at the expense of protecting people and the environment.
“New Jersey’s rules on coastal development contributed greatly to the devastation we saw in Sandy,” he said. “We know from that storm that development that wasn’t right on top of the water came through the storm better.”
The rules would make it easier to build new marinas or expand existing ones, and to put restaurants there. They would make it easier to erect piers and to build attractions on them.
They also make it easier to build homes along the water, including duplex or two-family houses, and to do “minor” dredging projects for homes or marinas. Some permits would be easier to apply for and get.
The proposal also changes mitigation requirements for some projects; environmentalists say the compensatory work for development disruptions won’t make up for the original impact on the environment.
The state plans public hearings in Long Branch on June 25; Trenton on June 26, and Tuckerton on July 9.
Tittel said the rules contain some good provisions, including letting people install solar energy equipment on lawns, and install wind turbines in some spots.
DEP spokesman Larry Hajna said the agency will adopt the rules, possibly with modifications that arise from the public hearings. But he could offer no timetable for their adoption.
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