State of the Beach/State Reports/NJ/Erosion Response
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Erosion response is a measure of how well a state's policies and procedures limit the extent of shoreline armoring, unsafe coastal development, and costly beach nourishment projects. Evaluation of this indicator brings attention to the states that are taking proactive roles in natural beach preservation and natural hazard avoidance. Through the formulation (if not already in place), implementation, and strict adherence of the specific criteria within the indicator, states can overcome two fundamental obstacles to alternative erosion response practices outlined by the Oceans Studies Board (2007):
- A lack of knowledge and experience among decision-makers regarding alternative options for shoreline erosion response, the relative level of erosion mitigation afforded by the alternative approaches and their expected life time, and the nature of the associated impacts and benefits.
- The current legal and regulatory framework itself, which discriminates against innovative solutions because of the complex and lengthy permitting process that almost always considers these options on a case-by-case basis.
For example, are statewide oceanfront construction setbacks used to site new development and are these based on the latest erosion rates? When existing development is damaged during a storm does a state prohibit reconstruction or provide incentives for relocation? Before permitting shoreline stabilization does a state require: that there is demonstrated need via geo-technical reports with content standards; that alternatives to armoring including managed retreat/relocation are fully explored; and that potential adverse impacts and cumulative effects are taken into account? If a state can answer 'yes' to most of these questions then its rank is high and if the answers are mostly 'no' then its rank is low.
Also see the "Policies" discussion of the Shoreline Structures section of this report for more information on New Jersey's erosion response.
Possible quantitative measures for this indicator include the number of new structures located within setback areas, number of damaged structures reconstructed in identified erosion zones, number of instances where alternatives to 'hard' shore protection were employed, the number of shoreline structures permitted under 'emergency' provisions, and the number of permits for shoreline structures reviewed, approved or denied. We have found that such information is rarely available.
Policies and Guidance
New Jersey’s Coastal Zone Management Rule (N.J.A.C. 7: 7E) defines erosion hazard areas to be shoreline areas that are eroding and/or have a history of erosion, causing them to be highly susceptible to further erosion, and damage from storms. The extent of the erosion hazard area is calculated by multiplying the projected erosion rate at a site by 30 for the development of one to four unit dwelling structures and by 60 for all other developments. Development is limited in the erosion hazard areas, but development can occur if they follow specific rules.
New Jersey’s Coastal Zone Management Rule (N.J.A.C. 7: 7E) also limits development on coastal bluffs. A coastal bluff is defined as a steep slope (greater than 15 percent) of consolidated or unconsolidated sediment which is adjacent to the shoreline. The landward limit of a coastal bluff is defined by the area that is likely to be eroded in 50 years, or 25 feet landwards of the bluff crest, whichever is farthest inland. Development is prohibited on coastal bluffs except for linear developments (defined to include shoreline protection structures) and single family dwelling that are not located along the Atlantic Ocean, Delaware Bay, Raritan Bay or Sandy Hook Bay.
Also applicable are the Coastal Permit Program Rules.
The Land Use Regulation (LUR) Program is a unit within the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Land Use Regulation. LUR's main task is reviewing applications for permits to build or develop on environmentally sensitive land such as freshwater wetlands, coastal areas and floodplains.
LUR's website contains information on the following topics:
- Included in this section is the following discussion on Coastal Special Areas - "The presence or absence of some Special Areas (SA) on coastal properties can be rudimentarily determined using the GEOWEB application and/or by referencing the SA link above. Details of Special Areas and requirements of working in or around them can be found in Subchapter 3 of the Coastal Zone Management Rules. You may also wish to consider contacting an environmental consulting firm that specializes in coastal development to help you better understand development opportunities and limitations on the property. More information can be found on our Coastal Determinations for Special Areas webpage."
- "There are two linked Rules which govern the review of all coastal project proposals. The Coastal Permit Program Rules at N.J.A.C. 7:7E provide the processes for permit reviews. It includes details on what activities need permits; the qualifications for general permits or permits-by-rule; the details for pre-application meetings, contents and fees; review procedures and deadlines; permit appeals; and enforcement of the coastal laws and rules. The second rule is the Coastal Zone Management Rules (CZM Rules) at N.J.A.C. 7:7E. This rule defines Special Areas of environmental interest, details requirements for development projects and sets forth the compliance criteria for permit approval. Certain general permits require compliance of specific sections of the CZM Rule, for example “dunes” or “shellfish habitat.” (To view the shellfish maps, please go to the Coastal Permitting section of the Maps and Guidance Documents webpage.) Individual Permit applications must address and demonstrate compliance with each applicable component of the CZM rules for the specific site and regulated activity to be approved."
NOTE: In the wake of Hurricane Sandy (October 2012), the Division of Land Use Regulation gathered in one place information on post storm reconstruction activities providing guidance on what is regulated, what is not regulated, and what permits, if any, are necessary in order to make the process of reconstruction easier. Of note is Administrative Order No. 2012-13 (Reconstruction of Public Infrastructure) exempting State, County and Municipal agencies from DEP’s formal permit procedures for a specific category of emergency activities relative to public infrastructure. The activities covered are:
- In-kind repair or in-kind replacement of certain public infrastructure (public roadways, railroads, culverts, bridges, utility lines, outfall structures, stormwater management structures, bulkheads and other similar shore-line stabilization structures).
- Repair of scoured areas directly adjacent to a bridge, culvert or public roadway. The scope of repair is limited to that area which has recently washed away.
- Repair and reconstruction of a public roadway including the stabilization or re-construction of the road-bed and associated embankments.
Also in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, in December 2012 the Federal Emergency Management Agency released new "temporary"Advisory Base Flood Elevations Maps for the coastal areas of New Jersey. Agency officials stated that their purpose was to guide reconstruction efforts and strengthen building codes. The interactive map shows areas prone to flooding - Zone V is susceptible to 100-year floods and and high velocity impacts from waves and Zone A to 100-year floods - along with the corresponding elevations where flooding would occur. The map will have no immediate implications on flood insurance policies or rates, FEMA said. Maps that will determine what residents will be required to buy federal flood insurance were expected to be rolled out in six to nine months. Read more.
In August 2006 Governor Jon Corzine proposed doubling or tripling existing no-development zones on most of the state's waterways. The new regulations by the state Department of Environmental Protection come after three successive and devastating floods along the Delaware River. The rules would increase buffers to 50 feet, 150 feet or 300 feet, on 80 percent of the state's rivers and streams. The other 20 percent -- previously dubbed the most pristine -- are already protected by 300-foot buffers.
NOAA's Coastal Program Evaluation (January 2008) stated:
NJCMP has made significant progress in strengthening State policies on coastal hazards. For example, the DEP amended their Coastal Zone Management Rules to further mitigate damage from coastal hazards. The new language encourages dedication of developed and undeveloped flood hazard areas as public open space, and limits the types of development that can occur in undeveloped flood hazard areas. Allowable exceptions to preservation of flood hazard corridors are water dependent uses, infill development, and uses for which there is no feasible alternative location. The DEP also adopted two rule changes related to beach and dune protection. These rules increased the minimum dune design volume required for 100-year flood protection to 1,100 square feet from 540 square feet, and strengthened construction standards for geotextile bags or tubes. NOAA approved these amendments as a program change in 2006. The CMO plans to examine options for rule changes addressing mitigation of hazards, such as sea level rise and coastal storms, on barrier islands.
NJCMP has also worked to identify gaps in the State’s coastal hazards policies in both economic and environmental terms. For example, in order to develop policy options for addressing climate change, the CMO helped to organize and deliver the Governor’s “Summit Confronting Climate Change in New Jersey” in 2006. Participants in the Summit included members of the Governor’s Cabinet, representatives from the financial services and insurance industries, and experts from the scientific community. The goal of the Summit was to assess potential consequences of climate change in the State and to generate policy options for addressing them. One significant issue that was identified by participants in the Summit was the need for community vulnerability assessments. In response, NJCMP has recently initiated a new effort to acquire LiDAR images to identify the most vulnerable coastal communities, so the Program can target future technical assistance.
In April 2005, the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved New Jersey’s Hazard Mitigation Plan. This allows the State’s Office of Emergency Management (NJOEM) to provide state, county and municipal governments with funds to promote hazard mitigation planning. In 2006, after FEMA approval of the State Plan, the NJCMP worked with the NJOEM and the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve to develop and deliver workshops on hazard mitigation planning for municipal and county officials. The workshops, titled “Understanding Hazard Mitigation Planning” and “Hazard Mitigation Planning: Technical Assistance Seminar,” were designed to provide an overview on coastal hazards and educate local officials on how to develop a comprehensive FEMA-approvable multi-hazard mitigation plan.
Saving New Jersey's Vanishing Shores is a brochure published by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Borough of Mantoloking is an example of a coastal municipality that has a setback ordinance as part of its land use regulations.
Coastal Blue Acres (CBA) was created with the passage of the Green Acres, Farmland, Historic Preservation and Blue Acres Bond Act of 1995. The bond act contains $15 million for grants and loans to municipalities and counties to acquire lands in coastal areas that have been damaged by storms, that may be prone to storm damage, or that buffer or protect other lands from storm damage, for recreation and conservation purposes. Under Blue Acres, the state can buy flood-prone land when maintaining private property there becomes difficult. The land is then preserved as open space. In November 2012 (coincidentally, just after Superstorm Sandy) the state Assembly Appropriations Committee approved a package of bills (A3368, A3369 and A3370) that appropriates more than $123 million in voter-approved funding for a new Blue Acres initiative. This program allows home and business owners to willingly sell their homes to the state. In addition, FEMA has provided nearly $55.1 million to purchase 272 homes in Sayreville and South River, towns that were flooded by the Raritan and South rivers during the Oct. 29, 2012 storm.
In December 2013 New Jersey offered to buy out owners of 33 homes and additional vacant lots in the remote Cumberland County community of Bay Point, a rational move to protect local people from inevitable sea-level rise and a commendable measure to protect more habitat for Delaware Bay wildlife. Property owners are being offered the buyouts after being devastated by Sandy, and after chronic flooding of the only access road through surrounding wetlands. Those who accept the state’s terms would see their homes – only two of which are occupied year-round -- demolished. Eight homes were destroyed by Sandy while some others remain uninhabitable. The owners are motivated in part by the $30,000-$80,000 cost of elevating their houses by about 5 feet to the new level of 13 feet that’s required to qualify for federal flood insurance. In addition, many owners are faced with a bill of around $8,000 for repairs to septic systems damaged by Sandy, as well as other storm-related repairs. The buyout will use $4.4 million in funds from Green Acres, a state DEP bond-funded program, and $3 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In addition, state and federal governments will each provide about $1 million for the ecological restoration of the properties. The peninsula will become a Wildlife Management Area operated by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. State and federal governments are providing $9.4 million to buy the properties. The plan is to convert 41 of the 46 acres on Bay Point peninsula to open space that will act as a buffer against coastal flooding while creating more habitat for wildlife, especially migratory birds.
According to the 2001 Assessment, development is still taking place in hazardous areas along the coast, particularly reconstruction of existing residential development and the conversion of single family/duplex dwelling into multiunit dwellings. As a result, the value of property at risk is increasing significantly throughout the coastal area. With over 50 different municipalities, numerous beach associations, and hundreds of private property owners managing beach and dune areas, the management practices and associated level of vulnerability vary greatly.
The in-place reconstruction of existing development, including storm-damaged development and expansions that do not increase the footprint of existing development remain largely unaffected by the coastal permit program. These statutory limitations do not provide a mechanism to direct redevelopment out of these hazardous areas. In addition to strong home rule and lobbying by special interests, it is unlikely that the statutory jurisdiction will be expanded in these areas.
Further discussion is provided in the 2001 Assessment document.
Greenhouse Effect, Sea Level Rise, and Barrier Islands: Case Study of Long Beach Island, New Jersey by James Titus of U.S. EPA was written in 1990, but still provides valuable insights as the coastal effects of erosion, storm damage and global climate change become more acute problems.
EPA has published a summary document Governments Plan for Development of Land Vulnerable to Rising Sea Level: New Jersey (2010).
The Coastal Area Facility Review Act (CAFRA) was adopted in 1973 to protect the coast. It has been criticized for leaving a loophole that exempts any residential project involving fewer than 25 units from state reviews. The Legislature partially closed that loophole by by giving the state Department of Environmental Protection authority to review any project within 150 feet of waterways and beaches. The result, however, is that developers of condominium complexes frequently build projects under the 25-unit threshold just outside the 150-foot zones.
Coastal Barrier Resources Act
The federal Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA), passed in 1982, was designed to "minimize the loss of human life, wasteful expenditure of federal revenues, and the damage to fish, wildlife and other natural resources" by denying federal support for everything from sewer construction to flood insurance in undeveloped or little-developed coastal areas such as barrier islands. CBRA does not restrict development in these areas, but it indirectly discourages development by denying the use of federal funds for development projects or redevelopment after storm or flood damage. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administers this program, which identified 1.3 million acres of coastal land to be covered by the act. Unfortunately, pressure by property owners and developers in these areas has lead Congress to pass dozens of exemption bills which exclude certain areas from CBRA, thus thwarting the intent of the Act.
The Coastal Barrier Improvement Act (CBIA) was enacted on November 16, 1990. The CBIA resulted in reauthorization of the CBRA of 1982. The CBRA establishes the Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS) to protect areas such as undeveloped coastal barrier islands. There is a discussion of CBRA on NOAA's web site that concludes:
"Although the removal of federal funding assistance has discouraged development in some coastal barrier islands, development has continued in other areas despite designation as a unit of the CBRS. CBIA is not intended to prevent or regulate development in high-risk areas; rather the intent is to direct that federal dollars not be spent for development in these areas. Activities conducted in areas adjacent to CBRS units may adversely impact these sensitive areas; these activities are not regulated under CBIA. In addition, CBIA does not restrict the use of private, local, or state funding within CBRS units. Some coastal states have initiated legislation that limits state funding of certain projects."
A report released in March 2007 reviews the extent to which (1) development has occurred in CBRS units since their inclusion in the system and (2) federal financial assistance and permits have been provided to entities in CBRS units. GAO electronically mapped address data for structures within 91 randomly selected CBRS units and collected information on federal financial assistance and permits for eight federal agencies. GAO found multiple federal agencies have provided some financial assistance to property owners in CBRS units that is expressly prohibited by CBRA; some assistance allowed under CBRA; and hundreds of permits for federally regulated development activities within the unit. GAO recommended, among other things, the four agencies that provided prohibited loan guarantees or insurance policies to CBRS units first verify and then cancel those that are in violation of CBRA.
On April 7, 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released to the public its Report to Congress: John H. Chafee Coastal Barrier Resources System Digital Mapping Pilot Project and announced the start of a 90-day public comment period. The report, which was directed by the Coastal Barrier Resources Reauthorization Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-514), highlights the benefits of updating Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS) maps with more accurate and precise digital maps to better protect people, coastal areas and natural resources.
FEMA has now developed a fact sheet on CBRA. The fact sheet outlines the responsibilities and restrictions that various programs within FEMA have under CBRA.
Climate Change Adaptation
As the nation’s most densely populated state, climate change along New Jersey’s coastline stands to impact thousands of residents, businesses, and economic sectors that depend on the state’s shoreline. Of the Northeastern region, New Jersey has been identified as one of the most vulnerable states to shoreline erosion, its extensive sandy beaches and disappearing dune systems easily susceptible to increased wave and wind action. Sea-level rise is projected to permanently inundate a majority of the State’s low-lying coastal areas, further exacerbating shoreline erosion and wetland loss.
Climate change impacts, sea-level rise in particular, however, come as no surprise for the many of the state’s residents and policy makers. For years New Jersey has been the focus of numerous climate change studies, sea-level rise and inundation mapping initiatives, and adaptation planning documents. The State has pursued aggressive climate change mitigation goals, with policy makers setting some of the Nation’s most ambitious near- and longer-term targets for reducing emissions. While the State does not currently benefit from a State Adaptation Plan, recent years have seen New Jersey increase its focus on reducing and mitigating hazards in the coastal zone. And although the state has not formally adopted a strategy of managed, coastal construction is regulated through use of its erosion rate-based erosion hazard areas. Coastal managers are additionally working towards the integration of sea-level rise models into coastal zoning ordinances, and to help identify the most hazard prone areas. Throughout its coastal zone, New Jersey has undertaken a number of initiatives, discussions, studies, research, and outreach related to climate change adaption. The state benefits from extensive coastal data, in addition to recently published guidance documents and adaptation frameworks. Thorough assessments of New Jersey’s coastal management laws and policies have also been completed, in the progress identifying a number of issues that continue to hinder the state’s adaptation efforts. With the State’s extensive data resources and knowledge related to climate change impacts, New Jersey’s next steps should focus on the implementation of adaptive measures, both locally and statewide. The State would benefit from coastal community planning pilot projects, as well as a state-sponsored sea level rise adaptation guidebook. In addition, it is suggested the state consolidate its data and mapping projects into a single, comprehensive Web portal that would provide easy access to coastal managers and policy makers.
Passed in July 2007, the New Jersey Global Warming Response Act adopted statewide limits on greenhouse gas emissions. The law mandates the statewide reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, a reduction of almost 20%, followed by a further reduction of emissions to 80% below 2006 levels by 2050. Various state departments and stakeholders were charged with evaluating the methods proposed to meet these targets, taking into account the economic costs and benefits of implementing these recommendations. With the signing of the Global Warming Response Act, New Jersey became the third state in the nation to sign GHG reductions goals into law.
In October 2008, largely in response to the GHG emissions reduction goals set forth in Global Warming Response Act, New Jersey released its Energy Master Plan (EMP). The overall priority of the EMP is to help guide New Jersey towards a future with adequate, reliable energy supplies that are both environmentally responsible and competitively priced. The Plan analyzes New Jersey’s current energy challenges and projected future challenges, concluding with a list of goals and action items that will help the state meet its energy objectives. Since passage of the Energy Master Plan Statute in 1987, the Energy Master Plan Committee has been required to create an EMP every 10 years, and update the EMP every three years. The most recent EMP, prior to the one released in 2008, was published in 1991 and updated in 1995. A 2010 update of the 2008 Plan is currently in progress. The 2008 EMP is additionally supplemented by an Implementation Strategies companion document.
As further required by the Global Warming Response Act, the State released Meeting New Jersey's 2020 Greenhouse Gas Limit: New Jersey's Global Warming Response Act Recommendations Report in December 2009. This report, acting as the State’s Climate Action Plan, provides analyses of significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions, details a broad range of options for meeting New Jersey's statewide 2020 greenhouse gas limit, and provides a framework for how the State should move forward to meet its statewide 2050 greenhouse gas limit. In addition to addressing all major sectors/sources of State GHG emissions, the report also takes into account sectors such as forestry and agriculture that naturally help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by sequestering carbon dioxide. As such, the report represents a comprehensive technical and financial framework for decision-making related to various greenhouse gas reduction strategies.
New Jersey is a member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a ten state cooperative effort aimed at implementing a regional mandatory cap and trade program in the Northeast and Mid Atlantic that addresses CO2 emissions from power plants. As the first mandatory market-based program to reduce carbon emissions in the U.S., the program will cap regional power plan CO2 emissions at approximately current levels from 2009 through 2014, and reduce emissions 10% by 2019. A set of model regulations establishing the cap-and-trade program was released on August 15, 2006. New Jersey is in the process of adopting these regulations.
The Union of Concerned Scientists prepared an overview of how climate change may affect New Jersey including the state's coastal area. The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University examined the potential effects of climate induced accelerated sea level rise on the New Jersey coast.
The New Jersey Global Warming website represents the state’s main online resource on climate change, detailing climate change science, highlighting the State's climate change initiatives, and setting forth the state’s climate change laws and regulations. The site additionally contains a number of outreach and educational materials that are useful for teachers, students, and the public in general. Links to climate change research, state publications, and expected climate change impacts in New Jersey are also included. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection houses an Office of Climate and Energy, which also maintains a climate change website. Key topics include a state GHG inventory, terrestrial carbon sequestration, and climate change adaptation, among others.
New Jersey has undertaken a number of mitigation initiatives not covered in this report, ranging from fuel efficient car programs to investments in alternative energy sources. For more detailed information on these various mitigation measures, visit the New Jersey Global Warming website.
While the state does not currently benefit from a State Adaptation Plan, the state’s Global Warming Response Act Report recommends that New Jersey develop adaptation strategies to minimize climate-related risks to public health, the environment, and the economy (see Chapter 4: Adaptation). Although primarily focused on climate change mitigation, the Report does recognize the variety of impacts that are expected to impact New Jersey, as influenced by climate change. The Plan addresses these impacts by setting forth potential adaptation considerations for New Jersey (see Table 4.1). Under the heading Outreach and Education, for example, the Report recommends:
- Hazard awareness & hazard education
- Effective risk communication on cumulative impacts (i.e., subsidence influence of sea level rise (SLR) in addition to SLR; development contributing to storm impact/runoff)
The Report, however, does not provide adaptation recommendations specifically aimed at sea-level rise adaptation or coastal resiliency.
Laws and management policies currently governing New Jersey’s coastal zone address climate change adaptation, albeit at times indirectly.
Development along coastal New Jersey is largely regulated by the State’s Coastal Zone Management Rule (N.J.A.C. 7: 7E), which is based upon the principle of erosion hazard areas. The inland extent of the erosion hazard area is calculated by multiplying the projected erosion rate at a site by 30 for the development of one to four unit dwelling structures and by 60 for all other developments.
In addition to the aforementioned setbacks, management of New Jersey’s coastal zone is based on three major laws: (1) Coastal Areas Facilities Review Act (CAFRA) 1973; (2) Wetlands Act of 1970; (3) Waterfront Development Law and the Public Trust Doctrine, all of which were implemented to help protect the state’s coastal areas from rampant and reckless development. Many of these policies and regulations, nevertheless, are undermined by inherent loopholes and enforcement problems that have continued to allow hazardous and unsustainable development to occur along the coast. Reconstruction of existing residential development is a particularly pervasive issue, as well as the conversion of single family/duplex dwelling into multi-unit dwellings. Statutory limitations currently do not provide a mechanism to direct redevelopment out of these hazardous areas, and, due in part to strong home rule and lobbying by special interests, it is unlikely that the statutory jurisdiction will be expanded in these areas. For more information on coastal development regulations, see the above Erosion Response section, in addition to New Jersey’s Department of Land Use Regulation website.
Further discussion of the state’s shoreline management program can be found above in Erosion Response section, as well as in New Jersey’s DEP office of Coastal Planning Section 309 Assessment (July 2001). The Assessment details changes, or lack thereof, to the State’s hazards protection programs since the previous assessment, and describes measures taken by the state to reduce and mitigate coastal hazards. The Assessment provides an update of coastal management strategies and initiatives, in addition to identifying shortcomings of current policies and laws governing the coastal zone.
Despite these impediments, the State of New Jersey and its various coastal management agencies continue to pursue a variety of progressive sea-level rise adaptation initiatives. The New Jersey Coastal Program’s Assessment and Enhancement Strategy, FY 2006-2010, for example, addresses certain climate change consequences, and specifically considers accelerated sea level rise, noting:
“While the precise rate of sea level rise is uncertain, current models indicate that global warming will cause the rate to increase. Recent projections forecast that relative sea level rise at the New Jersey coast will be between 0.31 m and 1.10 m by 2100 . The approximate central value of this range, 0.71 m, is more than twice the rise that occurred during the last century.”
Within the Assessment’s Coastal Hazards section, the NJ Coastal Management Program sets forth a number of sea-level rise adaptation actions that will be undertaken in the near future, including:
- Adoption of refined New Jersey Coastal Program goals;
- Development of consistent, comprehensive municipal coastal hazards mitigation plans;
- Coastal hazards education and outreach initiatives;
- Measures to address recommendations from the summit “Confronting Climate Change in New Jersey”;
- Review of the Coastal Zone Management barrier island corridor rule; and
- Development of methodology, protocol, and regulations and/or guidance documents designed to accommodate the adaptation of coastal wetlands to sea level rise.
More information on the Assessment and its recommended enhancement strategy.
Created through the collaborative effort between the NJCMP and the Urban and Regional Planning and Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy Graduate Student Workshop at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School, the publication The Garden State in the Greenhouse, Climate Change Mitigation and Coastal Adaptation Strategies for New Jersey (PDF) represents one of the most comprehensive sea level rise adaptation guidance documents available to New Jersey coastal managers. Released in January 2007, the report elaborates upon the importance of coastal adaptation, drawing extensively from highly aggressive national and international climate change adaptation initiatives, most notably those of the UK. The report outlines a strategy for moving towards an adequate climate change response, while continuing to advance the state’s economic interests. In order to help guide New Jersey’s efforts when enacting innovative mitigation and adaptation strategies, the Report suggest the State take action in six major areas:
- Establish New Jersey’s regional and national leadership on climate change
- Link climate change policies to economic growth and workforce development
- Boost energy efficiency gains
- Increase transportation efficiency and make development smarter
- Improve State preparedness for sea level rise and increased frequency & intensity of storms
- Increase public awareness about climate change impacts and support for state action
To meet each of these goals, the report sets forth a series of specific and highly detailed Action Steps, along with tables and visuals. In regards to sea level rise adaptation specifically (Goal 5), the Report consistently turns to coastal adaptation measures utilized in the UK as guiding policy. For example, the Report produces a model long-term coastal management plan based largely off of the UK’s own Shoreline Management Plan. Long-term plans vary for different sections of the coastline, with some regions employing a method of managed retreat and others one of “holding the line” through the use of shoreline armoring. The report further suggest New Jersey, like the UK and the state of Oregon, move towards a regional shoreline management strategy that splits the shore into units based on littoral cells, allowing each region to be responsible for deciding its own management techniques and plans.
The report also declares that the NJDEP should prepare for the possibility of long-term retreat from targeted low-lying areas. As one of the most aggressive, and in Surfrider’s opinion most sustainable, options for future shoreline management, Managed Retreat from the coastal area has yet to gain many followers. The report nevertheless advocates a strategy of managed retreat through the use of rolling easements. Rolling easements are those that allow the public ownership and/or access to the tidelands and the wet beach to “roll” landward as sea level rises. Rolling easements do not prevent property owners from use of their property until that use eliminates tidelands and public access as sea level rises and the beach erodes. The six main Action Steps specifically recommended for Goal Five (sea level rise adaptation) include:
- Produce vulnerability and economic impact reports evaluating various climate change scenarios.
- Incorporate climate change impacts into short- and long-term plans for the coast.
- Encourage municipal adaptation planning through a pilot “Dry Cities” program sponsored jointly by NJDEP and NJOSG.
- Preserve land strategically to protect natural resources from the impacts of climate change.
- Enhance preparedness for more frequent and intense storms though improved emergency management plans and a clear chain of command.
- Partner with the insurance industry to develop a climate change risk management strategy.
The report additionally acknowledged the importance education and outreach will play in the effectiveness of future adaptation measures. Goal 6: Increase public support for climate change mitigation and coastal adaptation policies by raising awareness, advocates creation of state-wide public awareness climate change campaigns. In recent years, the New Jersey Coastal Management Program (NJCMP) has also increased its commitment to climate change adaptation. To better prepare coastal regions for sea level rise, NJCMP is developing a variety of methodologies, protocols, regulations, regulations and guidance documents, in addition to developing municipal coastal hazard mitigation plans. In response to growing sea-level rise concerns and severe flooding along the Delaware River in recent years, the NJCMP has increasingly helped strengthen State policies on coastal hazards. For example, the DEP amended their Coastal Zone Management Rules to further mitigate damage from coastal hazards. The DEP also adopted two rule changes related to beach and dune protection. These rules increased the minimum dune design volume required for 100-year flood protection to 1,100 square feet from 540 square feet, and strengthened construction standards for geotextile bags or tubes.
NJCMP’s website also includes a section titled Coastal Hazards of New Jersey: Now and with a Changing Climate. The website specifically references climate change as a local coastal hazard, in addition to describing the issue of accelerated sea level rise. The site also provides details on the state’s current climate change adaptation initiatives.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Coastal Program has two action plans to mitigate sea level rise impacts: (1) to direct development and residency away from coastal high-hazard areas through regulation and improved public education, and (2) to address the impacts to the marsh system through more research prior to developing additional regulations or plans.
In order to develop policy options for addressing climate change, New Jersey’s governor held Summit Confronting Climate Change in New Jersey in 2006. The Summit aimed to assess potential consequences of climate change in the State, and further, to generate policy options for addressing these issues. One significant issue identified by participants in the Summit was the need for community vulnerability assessments. In response, the NJCMP has recently initiated a new effort to acquire coastwide LiDAR images identifying the most vulnerable coastal communities. Once completed, this data will enable the NJCMP to better target future technical assistance and help enforce policies directing development away from these areas. The mapping will contribute to the Coastal Program’s efforts to implement policies that accommodate the landward migration of coastal wetlands, the establishment of coastal wetlands along open water areas, and the transformation of freshwater wetlands to tidal wetlands. Additionally, projections of future changes in vulnerability are considered essential for planning that addresses accelerating sea level rise and increasing storm frequency and intensity.
Published in November 2005, the study Future Sea Level Rise and the New Jersey Coast: Assessing Potential Impacts and Opportunities (PDF) represents one of the most comprehensive assessments of sea-level rise impacts along New Jersey’s coast. Conducted by the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, the study projects future sea level rise based on historical measurements and global scenarios. These projected levels are subsequently applied to digital elevation models, illustrating the extent to which the New Jersey coast is vulnerable to sea level rise. Accounting for the local component of two mm/year, the model projection for relative sea level rise for the New Jersey coast is estimated to be between 0.31 and 1.10 meters (1.02 – 3.6 ft). Accordingly, this study focuses its analyses on two specific elevation contours: 0.61 m and 1.22 m (two feet and four feet). With regards to these projections, the authors estimate that 1 to 3 percent of New Jersey’s land area will be affected by inundation, and 6.5 to 9 percent will be affected by episodic coastal flooding over the next century. The study also importantly suggests a range of adaptation and mitigation strategies for managing coastal areas in response to sea level rise. The findings suggest that where possible, a gradual withdrawal of development from some areas of the New Jersey coast may be the optimum management strategy for protecting natural ecosystems.
Released in 2007 by Rutgers University and the American Littoral Society, Vulnerability of New Jersey’s Coastal Habitats to Sea Level Rise studied aspects of long-term sustainability of habitats with regards to vulnerability and adaptation to sea level rise. The mapping project identified vulnerable development in New Jersey’s coastal zone, and further determined where this development constricts the natural dynamics of coastline migration in response to sea level rise. These maps provide a visual representation of areas vulnerable to sea level rise and coastal storms, areas where habitats are constricted by development and will not be able to retreat, and areas where habitat is free to retreat inland, given current conditions.
In 2004, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection revised and adopted stormwater management regulations. These regulations contain general principles for the development of stormwater management plans and stormwater control ordinances designed to reduce flood damage, including damage to life and property. The revised regulations additionally provide special protection for Category One waters, requiring a 300-foot special water resource protection area adjacent to these waters. Not only do these regulations help reduce flood damage, the 300-foot special water resource protection area will serve to preserve areas suitable for the horizontal landward migration of certain coastal wetlands in response to sea level rise.
Published in 1991 by James Titus, Greenhouse Effect, Sea Level Rise, and Barrier Islands: Case Study of Long Beach Island presents an overview of sea level rise as it pertains to barrier island morphology. Using Long Beach Island, New Jersey as a case study, the paper provides policy recommendations to help New Jersey deal with sea level rise in developing coastal communities. The study expounds on the importance of barrier islands that serve to naturally buffer coastal areas from high wave action and coastal storms. Titus presents four different policy options for dealing with rising sea levels along developed barrier communities:
- Do nothing, but use setbacks to mitigate affected development, and post-disaster plans to prohibit reconstruction of severely damaged properties;
- Engineer a retreat (create new land on lagoon side);
- Raise an island in place (sand replenishment); and
- Encircle the island with levees (dikes).
Additional Initiatives Indirectly Contributing to Climate Change Adaptation
- Through the coastal permitting and technical assistance programs, the Department encourages uniform beach and dune management and implementation of Best Management Practices (BMPs). The BMPs for beach and dune management have been codified in the Coastal Zone Management rules at N.J.A.C. 7:7E-3A.
- The New Jersey Beach Profile Network (NJBPN) initiative has enhanced New Jersey’s state of knowledge regarding the risks of coastal hazards. The initiative involved semi-annual surveys to monitor the conditions of beaches and dunes at 120 stations along the shore. These surveys were subsequently used to identify areas subject to coastal hazards, in addition to assessing changes in risk to people and property over time.
- New Jersey Sea Grant College Program’s Manual for Coastal Hazard Mitigation provides valuable guidance for addressing coastal hazards. The Manual is,"... intended to serve as a resource for individuals, and federal, state, and local officials with which to form the basis of informed coastal hazard mitigation decisions."
- Prepared by the Association of State Floodplain Managers and NOAA, No Adverse Impact in the Coastal Zone acts as an important resource that provides strategies for coping with coastal hazards.
- Coastal Blue Acres (CBA) was created with the passage of the Green Acres, Farmland, Historic Preservation and Blue Acres Bond Act of 1995. The bond act contains $15 million for grants and loans to municipalities and counties to acquire lands in coastal areas that have been damaged by storms, that may be prone to storm damage, or that buffer or protect other lands from storm damage, for recreation and conservation purposes.
Due to New Jersey’s extremely high population density, combined with its severe coastal erosion issues, numerous sea level rise studies have been undertaken by state agencies, organizations, and academic institutions. For more detailed sea-level rise information, as it pertains to New Jersey, visit the following publications:
- The Grant F. Walton Center for Remote Sensing & Spatial Analysis at Rutgers University, in partnership with the American Littoral Society examined the potential effects of sea level rise on coastal habitats. The results of their study is presented in the report Vulnerability of New Jersey's Coastal Habitats to Sea Level Rise.
- Greenhouse Effect, Sea Level Rise, and Barrier Islands: Case Study of Long Beach Island, New Jersey by James Titus of U.S. EPA was written in 1990, but still provides valuable insights as the coastal effects of erosion, storm damage and global climate change become more acute problems.
- EPA has published a summary document Governments Plan for Development of Land Vulnerable to Rising Sea Level: New Jersey (2009).
- The USGS study Potential for shoreline changes due to sea level rise along the U.S: Mid-Atlantic region indicated that most of NJ's coast is highly susceptible to the effects of SLR.
- NOAA and Connecticut Sea Grant have released Cost-Efficient Climate Adaptation in the North Atlantic, a report that looks at community-level coastal flood management and climate change adaptation best practices throughout the North Atlantic region of the United States.
- New Jersey: Confronting Climate Change in the U.S. Northeast
- Manual for Coastal Hazard Mitigation
- A Framework for Measuring Coastal Hazard Resilience in New Jersey Communities – White Paper for the Urban Coast Institute
- New Jersey Coastal Zone Management Assessment and Strategy – 2001-2006
- Saving New Jersey's Vanishing Shores is a brochure published by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
- New Jersey Climate Change Initiatives
General Reference Documents
A good general reference site for coastal hazards is a Coastal Hazards website maintained by Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC. This site has a substantial amount of coastal hazards information, including maps, photos, and an extensive reference list.
An informative publication is Ten Principles for Coastal Development (2007) by the Urban Land Institute.
The Coastal States Organization (CSO) has published two reports relating to climate change adaptation. The first is Coastal Community Resilience: An Evaluation of Resilience as a Potential Performance Measure of the Coastal Zone Management Act (July 2008)(PDF, 265 KB). Developed by CSO staff and CSO’s Coastal Resilience Steering Committee, the document demonstrates the value of resilience to coastal management and offers concrete recommendations for enhancing resilience at the state and local level. The second document is The Role of Coastal Zone Management Programs in Adaptation to Climate Change (September 2008)(PDF, 732KB). The report includes detailed results of a 2008 adaptation survey designed to obtain up to date information on the status of adaptation planning, priority information needs, and the anticipated resource needs of the coastal states, commonwealths, and territories.
In April 2009, the Heinz Center and Ceres announced the release of their Resilient Coasts - A Blueprint for Action, to outline steps to reduce risks and losses in the face of growing threats. The Heinz Center and Ceres produced the blueprint with a coalition of leading insurers, public officials, risk experts, builders, and conservation groups. The blueprint is endorsed by many groups, including The Travelers Institute, The Nature Conservancy, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Wharton School, and the Mayor of Charleston, South Carolina. The blueprint includes policy changes and common sense actions that could reduce economic losses from future storms and rising sea levels by as much as half along U.S. coastlines. The blueprint outlines specific recommendations, including: enabling planning for climate impacts by providing the necessary science and decision-making tools; requiring risk-based land use planning; designing adaptable infrastructure and building code standards to meet future risk; strengthening ecosystems as part of a risk mitigation strategy; developing flexible adaptation plans; maintaining a viable private property and casualty insurance market; and integrating climate change impacts into due diligence for investment and lending. The coalition urges the Obama administration, Congress, local leaders and the private sector to see that blueprint actions are implemented through regulation, investment, education, and other means.
In January 2010 the National Association of Counties released Building Resilient Coastal Communities: Counties and the Digital Coast which highlights many of the Digital Coast resources that counties use to address coastal flooding, habitat conservation and land use. More resources, tools and data are available through the NOAA Coastal Services Center Digital Coast website.
More recently, NOAA Coastal Services Center has developed a Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer as part of its Digital Coast website. Being able to visualize potential impacts from sea level rise is a powerful teaching and planning tool, and the Sea Level Rise Viewer brings this capability to coastal communities. A slider bar is used to show how various levels of sea level rise will impact coastal communities. Completed areas include Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, Florida, and Georgia, with additional coastal counties to be added in the near future. Visuals and the accompanying data and information cover sea level rise inundation, uncertainty, flood frequency, marsh impacts, and socioeconomics.
StormSmart Coasts is a resource for coastal decision makers looking for the latest and best information on how to protect their communities from weather and climate hazards. StormSmart Legal is a new addition to the StormSmart Coasts Network that provides information about property rights, regulatory takings, and permissible government regulation in coastal areas.
In December 2012 NOAA's Climate Program Office released a report Global Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States National Climate Assessment. The report was produced in response to a request from the U.S. National Climate Assessment Development and Advisory Committee. It provides a synthesis of the scientific literature on global sea level rise, and a set of four scenarios of future global sea level rise. The report includes input from national experts in climate science, physical coastal processes, and coastal management.
Also in December 2012 the Georgetown Climate Center hosted a webinar Floodplain Regulation: Challenges and Opportunities in Preparing for Climate Changes about how communities can become more resilient to extreme weather and prepare for climate change through floodplain regulations. The webinar featured a discussion of a model sea-level rise ordinance developed by the Georgetown Climate Center and insights from three experienced planners from Iowa, New Hampshire, and Mississippi. Practitioners shared lessons learned and their experiences enhancing regulatory standards in floodplains in the wake of extreme weather events - lessons that may prove particularly valuable as the northeastern United States recovers from Superstorm Sandy.
NOAA's Coastal and Waterfront Smart Growth website is organized into 10 chapters describing different elements essential for communities interested in implementing coastal and waterfront smart growth. By clicking on the individual chapters, you can get a description of each Coastal and Waterfront Smart Growth Element, how this relates to the Coastal and Waterfront Issues, Tools and Techniques you can use in your community, and Case Studies of successes. Each chapter contains a navigation box allowing quick access to the information and the ability to download the content of each page. A 2012 report by NOAA and EPA on Achieving Hazard-Resilient Coastal & Waterfront Smart Growth presents ideas shared by smart growth and hazard mitigation experts related to building hazard-resilient coastal communities.
EPA has a website devoted to preparing for rising sea level and other consequences of changing climate. The premise of the Sea Level Rise Adaptation website is that society should take measures to make our coastal development and ecosystems less vulnerable to a rise in sea level. The papers on this site demonstrate that numerous low-cost measures, if implemented, would make the United States less vulnerable to rising sea level. This site includes (or links to) the material available on the agency’s Climate Change Impacts and Adapting to Change website and key reports from other government agencies.
Coastal Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerabilities (USGS-NOAA, January 2013) emphasizes the need for increased coordination and planning to ensure U.S. coastal communities are resilient against the effects of climate change. The report examines and describes climate change impacts on coastal ecosystems and human economies and communities, as well as the kinds of scientific data, planning tools and resources that coastal communities and resource managers need to help them adapt to these changes. Case studies are presented for Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
In December 2012 the Lincoln Institute released Coastal States’ Climate Adaptation Initiatives: Sea Level Rise and Municipal Engagement (Working Paper). This paper explores how states and municipalities interact to address sea level rise, providing an overview of the state of practice, some reasons for different levels of action, and some of the needs of municipalities. It includes recommendations for ways states can provide adaptation support to municipalities.
Coastal Risk Reduction and Resilience: Using the Full Array of Measures, (pdf, 1.2 MB) published in September 2013, discusses the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' capabilities to help reduce risks to coastal areas and improve resilience to coastal hazards through an integrated planning approach. Federal, state, local, non-governmental organization and private sector interests connected to our coastal communities possess a complementary set of authorities and capabilities for developing more integrated coastal systems. The effective implementation of an integrated approach to flood and coastal flood hazard mitigation relies on a collaborative, shared responsibility framework between Federal, state, and local agencies and the public.
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