Former DEP Official Proposes Long Term Plan to Move Residents Off Barrier Islands - NJTV, 12/26/12
Can we stop the flooding such as we have recently endured in the state? The simple answer is: No. Typically, the average annual rainfall for New Jersey is 47 inches, but during the three-month period from July 8 to Oct. 5, the state averaged more than 27 inches of rain, according to the U.S. Weather Service. And August and September of this year were two of the rainiest months in recorded history.
When we flush the toilet, waste is carried away through a system of pipes that are owned and maintained by a wastewater utility. Similarly, when we turn on the faucet, the water comes through pipes that are owned by a water utility. These services come at a price — we pay both wastewater and water utility fees, either to a municipality or to a private entity. Yet, for some reason, when the concept of storm water utilities was raised by Sen. Bob Smith (D-Piscataway) and Assemblyman John McKeon (D-South Orange), there was great reluctance to pay for maintaining our storm water infrastructure. Opponents referred to the fees as a “rain tax.” Does that mean that our wastewater fees are a “poop tax”?
A Monmouth University poll conducted for New Jersey Future on Oct. 11, 2011, found that New Jersey residents rank “protecting the drinking water supply” as the highest priority for the state, even higher than “attracting businesses and creating new jobs.” According to Poll Director Patrick Murray, “What’s interesting here is that even when the economy is bad, New Jerseyans are still worried about the environment around them.” Unfortunately, this sentiment comes at a time when we are faced with unprecedented financial constraints at the federal, state and local level that inhibit government from being most effective in accomplishing that protection.
I have been an environmentalist since the early 1970s, when, along with thousands of other baby boomer college students, I discovered the environmental problems associated with our post-World War II economic success. I have spent most of my life in the service of the environment during my 35 years at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
“There’s no place like home.” With those five words and three clicks of her ruby slippers, Dorothy and her dog, Toto, were able to return to her aunt and uncle’s farm in Kansas after her adventure in the Emerald City. While this happened only in a movie, the power of those five words is as important to most Americans as it was to Dorothy, the main character in “The Wizard of Oz.”
Underlying the message is a concept called “sense of place.” This term is best defined as the feelings that a person or a community has about where they live. “Sense of place is about the feeling that emanates from a place as a combination of the physical environment and the social construct of people activity (or absence of) that produces the feeling of a place,” said Peter Apo, a Hawaiian legislator.
Many rural townships throughout the state have been faced with an onslaught of applicants seeking to turn agricultural land into solar power plants. In a recent talk, I likened the explosion of solar projects to the oil wells that swarmed over the landscape of western Pennsylvania in the early years of oil exploration. As petroleum moved us away from dependence on whale oil, solar is seen as a means to wean us from dependence on foreign oil. Therefore, many people believe, the more facilities, the better. Fortunately, solar energy does not pollute like oil and it also does not deplete the Earth’s resources. However, there are questions about where solar energy facilities should be located.
It’s hard to turn on the news in the evening, or browse the internet, and not see images of severe weather events — floods, tornadoes, wildfires, drought, drenching rains and rising seas. Whether you believe in climate change or not, there is clearly something happening to our weather.
Last month, I wrote about how we need to begin to adapt to the effects of climate change (op-ed, “As storms intensify, New Jersey must adapt,” Aug. 16). As I indicated, according to a recent poll, 71 percent of New Jersey residents believe that “the possible effects of climate change and global warming were a concern.” I’d like to address not so much what humans can do to stop the situation, but rather what we can do to adapt to the changes that many believe have already started.
According to a recent poll, 71 percent of New Jersey residents believe that “the possible effects of climate change and global warming were a concern.” In recent months on these pages, I discussed a report by the Climate and Environmental Change Initiative of Rutgers University and how climate change impacts such as more intense storm events as well as increased temperature and more frequent droughts will require us to rethink much of our present land-use and environmental policy.
This is a very difficult article to write. We have just suffered through one of the worst storms in the history of the state. More than 8.5 million people were without power, and even more important, thousands of homes and business were damaged or destroyed. Although I have recently written about our need to adapt to climate change, even I was not prepared for the destruction this storm brought.
Clearly, the biggest impact of Hurricane Sandy was the damage or destruction of homes. Even after two months, thousands of people are still homeless and many properties are destroyed. Climate change is something that will occur over many years. While we are starting to see the impacts today, the overall changes will be gradual and will occur in fits and starts.
Since Superstorm Sandy, we have been inundated with proposals on how to address rebuilding the coast, both now and in the future. Some of our representatives in the Legislature believe that the state needs to take a stronger role in the process. Assemblyman Peter Barnes (D-Middlesex), for example, wants to create “a state commission that would assume much of the authority for rebuilding the battered shore towns” .
Last New Year’s Day, Princeton Township and Princeton Borough finalized their consolidation efforts. While I applaud their courage, this represents only the second consolidation since 1997, when Pahaquarry Township merged with Hardwick Township. While our legislative leadership and governors have sought for years to save money by encouraging municipal consolidation and shared services, they have met with little success: In addition to 565 municipalities, we also have 603 school districts in the state, 729 fire departments and hundreds of police departments, numerous health departments and many other overlapping services.