Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Our state is shrinking. Time to deal with rising sea levels | Opinion

By Joseph J. Maraziti Jr.
As a result of Superstorm Sandy, awareness of the vulnerability of New Jersey's waterfront communities to occasional major storms and coastal flooding is widely understood.
But the threat that Sandy posed pales in significance to the coming devastation of sea level rise. Sandy produced a storm surge - the ocean came in and soon left.  Sea level rise poses a much more ominous result - the ocean slowly creeps in at increasing levels, but never leaves.  Flooding on sunny days during high tide is already a common experience in Miami and other southern cities in the USA.
New Jersey is not exempt. In short, the map of New Jersey is shrinking.
Predicted sea level rise in Seaside Heights in a 2013 analysis.
Predicted sea level rise in Seaside Heights in a 2013 analysis. (Courtesy of Rutgers University,
As the climate warms, sea levels do not rise uniformly.  Unfortunately, scientists have found a "hot spot" of accelerated sea level rise along the mid - Atlantic seaboard - i.e. New Jersey - and predict increasing vulnerability of coastal areas to flooding.

Rising seas could displace 837K N.J. residents: Study
Rising seas could displace 837K N.J. residents: Study
According to a new report, sea-level rise along the Jersey Shore and low-lying urban areas could force hundreds of thousands from their homes by 2100
The phenomenon that increases the danger to New Jersey results from the interaction of multiple factors:
1. Climate change causes global ocean bulges created by the imbalance of melting rates of distant ice sheets and the slowing of the Gulf Stream.
2. The sinking of the land mass caused by the combination of the adjustment of the earth to the end of the last ice age, and local groundwater withdrawal and dredging. The risk is real and present. There is no need to engage in the political debate as to what is causing the sea to rise and the land to sink - it is measurable and is happening - we must immediately face this challenge.
New Jersey's tidal rivers, bays and its prized Atlantic coast and Delaware Bay are particularly vulnerable to forces well beyond the near term control of the human race.
It is predicted that in only 35 years the one in 10-year flood level in Atlantic City would exceed any known prior flood level, including Superstorm Sandy. It is essential to understand that the threat is not just to the beachfront homes of the fortunate few.
As the sea rises, the impact on areas far up river is severe as well. Take Secaucus for example: it is projected that the viability of this transportation, energy and warehousing hub is jeopardized.
 (Bloomberg News)
A moment's thought about the consequence of salt water intrusion on underground drinking water supplies, the inundation of sewer treatment plants that line our rivers and bays, the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue because rateables have gone the way of the submerged city of Atlantis -- to name a few implications --  leads to the inescapable conclusion that we must seize the opportunity to identify state level actions and responses that are not limited to the isolated efforts of municipal governments.
We cannot sacrifice the future of our children on the altar of home rule.
When faced in the past to threats to valued features of New Jersey, such as the Pinelands and the Highlands, New Jersey responded with the creation of new statutory tools to deal with regional challenges that transcended the boarders of individual municipalities.

When is 2017 hurricane season, and what you need to know
When is 2017 hurricane season, and what you need to know
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The Pinelands and Highlands Commissions are charged with responding to human threats to the state's precious natural resources.
Effectively dealing with sea level rise presents an overwhelmingly more daunting challenge - Mother Nature. How can individual municipalities, that have jurisdictional boundaries, respond to this imminent threat and develop and implement measures to protect and fortify the trillions of dollars of hard assets that are in harms way, to say nothing of the lives and health of the people of New Jersey?
Without a regionally focused comprehensive and coordinated response, haphazard outcomes that spare some communities, but leave others vulnerable cannot be avoided. Mother Nature does not respect municipal boundaries or man-made laws.
There is now an urgent need to implement a bold and robust coordinated strategy to deal with the uninvited guest who is now at our doorstep!
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