LETTER – DEP Rule Threatens People, Property and Environment

For Immediate Release

August 3, 2017

Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

DEP Rule Threatens People, Property and Environment

 

The DEP has come out with proposed amendments, repeals, and new rules to the Coastal Zone Management Rules that threaten people, property, and the environment. The proposed amendments are related to shellfish aquaculture, filled water’s edge, dune walkovers and other beach and dune development, CAFRA findings, V zones, scenic resources and high-rise structures, permits to apply herbicide, trails, building access in flood hazard areas, application requirements, and rule rationales. Amendments and new rules are additionally proposed in the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act Rules and Flood Hazard Area Control Act Rules as part of the Department’s continuing effort to align the three-land use permitting programs to the extent possible. These rules will open-up high hazard areas for commercial development in flood-prone areas of the Hudson River and Atlantic City, while threatening environmentally sensitive dunes, wetlands, and coastal areas.

 

“The Christie Administration is again siding with developers over the environment by rolling back protections. The new proposal they are pushing through is one of the last attempts to pave over environmentally sensitive areas by opening up all types of coastal areas for development including high hazard. What they are doing is changing environmental rules to make it easier for developers to access beaches and coastal areas for new commercial and residential projects. This includes developing huge hotels, recreation centers and other projects in areas that flood like the Hudson River waterfront and Atlantic City. With these rules, Governor Christie is allowing building in areas that flood, putting people at risk from storm surges and climate impacts,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “At the same time, this rule threatens the environment with herbicide spraying, harming endangered species, and allowing for offshore drilling.”

 

Commercial Development in Flood Prone Areas of Hudson River and Atlantic City

 

In the new rules, it “establishes that hotel and commercial development is acceptable in coastal high hazard areas if it is located in Atlantic City or in a special urban area within the Hudson River Waterfront Area, complies with the applicable special area rules for those locations, and complies with the Federal flood reduction standards at 44 CFR Part 60 and the Uniform Construction Code (UCC).”

 

“With these rules, DEP is allowing more fill and building in flood hazard and environmentally sensitive areas. They are making these changes to benefit private developers over what is best for the people of New Jersey. With over-development and sea level rise, we should be moving people away from flood-prone areas. We need to develop an overall comprehensive approach for resiliency and coastal planning including buyouts, raising homes, and mitigation. Instead, the DEP have is allowing massive development like hotels and recreational centers in sensitive areas that will be washed out during the next storm,” said Tittel.

 

Dune Walkovers and Other Beach and Dune Developments

 

The Department is proposing new permit-by-rule 23 to “authorize the installation of an at-grade dune walkover, such as a stabilization mat, at a residential, commercial, or public development other than a single-family home or duplex.” The DEP is allowing located elevated dune walkovers to facilitate public access.

 

Trails, Paths, and Footbridges (Elevating Bridges Through Streams/Wetlands)

 

The Department is also proposing to delete the requirement that solid boardwalk type walkovers be elevated at least one foot above the dune. They are also proposing another general permit authorizes multiple-use paths, which may be paved and can convey light vehicles, such as bicycles and golf carts. This amendment allows for the placement of certain tourism developments on beaches while maintaining beach areas closest to the water for use by the public.

 

“These rules are a triple threat to the environment by rolling back protections in the CAFRA, Flood Hazard and Wetlands rules. What they are doing is allowing loopholes to build boardwalks with general permits. They are changing the wetlands rule to allow paths and trails for small motorized vehicles like golf carts and lawn tractors without looking at potential environmental impacts. With these rules, there will be more walkovers along bridges and environmentally sensitive dunes and development of piers in flood-zones. Also it allows you to potentially move dunes under the manufactured dunes for bike paths or during construction. For an administration that doesn’t allow beach access, this is hypocritical because they will allow access for private homes and development. Instead of protecting endangered species, this allows for minimal impact, which could harm important habitat,” said Jeff Tittel.

 

Beach Restoration, Herbicides, and Offshore Oil Exploration

 

Specifically, “the general permit being proposed authorizes routine beach maintenance activities performed for emergency post-storm beach restoration in accordance, dune creation and maintenance activities.” The new rule also keeps “former standards for Outer Continental Shelf development to concentrate industrial development in the coastal zone should any

exploratory drilling be successful in the future,” while they should be taking this out to block offshore drilling. General permit 28 even “authorizes the application of herbicide within freshwater wetlands and transition areas to control invasive plant species” and General permit 64 allows spraying in riparian zones.

 

“These rules will even allow for more beach replenishment projects that pump beach on the sand with general permits that puts people at risk to the next storm. Instead of removing part of the rule that allows offshore oil exploration, they are keeping it intact, which puts us at even greater threat to Trump’s offshore drilling plans along our coast,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “They are even making it easier to spray herbicides, which will destroy sensitive vegetation and important species habitat. It is not a surprise in the last few months of the Christie Administration they continue to roll back environmental protections. For the past eight years, they have added loopholes for increased development, including in environmentally sensitive wetlands, stream buffers, and flood prone areas. All together these rules will threaten decades worth of environmental protections.”

 

The proposal is scheduled to be published in the New Jersey Register dated July 17, 2017. A copy of the proposal is available at http://www.nj.gov/dep/rules/proposals/20170717a.pdf  and from LexisNexis free public access to the New Jersey Register, www.lexisnexis.com/njoal.