“Smarter” Than the Storm is Better for New Jersey
By Michele S. Byers
“Stronger than the storm” implies that we can somehow beat Mother Nature through our superior strength and resolve. But as those who have survived natural catastrophes like hurricanes, tornadoes and tsunamis have come to realize, being “stronger” is impossible.
At a recent meeting of New Jersey’s Senate and Assembly environment committees in Atlantic City, many folks spoke out on the challenges of withstanding coastal storms like Super Storm Sandy.
“I hate to say it. We’re not stronger than the storm. We never were and we never will be,” said Mark Mauriello, former commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The hearing in Atlantic City brought together scores of people with diverse concerns about the shore, from those frustrated with slow flood insurance payments, to those hoping that the new federal flood maps would not force them to undertake costly house-raising projects.
Almost drowned out, so to speak, were the voices of those like Mauriello, who believe New Jersey must be smarter in planning for the next coastal storm.
Some folks stated: “It is not a matter of if another storm hits, it’s a matter of when.” Sandy brought the highest storm surge in our state’s recorded history – and it will happen again.
Although the idea of another storm is not what we want to hear, it is critical for New Jersey to take action now and adopt plans that anticipate sea level rise and more frequent and violent storms.
“Sea-level rise is accelerating up to three times faster than in the past. The sea will be at least 3 feet, and perhaps 4½ feet higher, in 2100,” said Dr. Emile DeVito, New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s manager of science and stewardship. “We must predict where the ocean will be 50 to 75 years from now, and build structures, dunes and beaches that anticipate these conditions.”
Rutgers University has a new online “Flood Mapper” that graphically depicts the impacts of sea level rise. The site, http://slrviewer.rutgers.edu/SLR.html#, shows what a 3-foot rise would do to places like Atlantic City. Areas in Atlantic City that now flood two days per year will likely flood 164 days per year by 2100.
Our best defense against rising sea levels and storm surges is a slow and steady strategic retreat away from the shoreline. This would take people out of harm’s way and allow natural systems, like dunes and salt marshes, to replenish themselves. These natural systems act like giant sponges, absorbing water and wave energy.
A strategic retreat from the coastline would mean less public infrastructure, fewer structures and more natural buffers. Rather than rebuild in vulnerable and low lying areas, “smarter than the storm” would mean planning for a gradual retreat from the sea.
Thirty years ago, former Gov. Thomas Kean identified the need for sound coastal planning and called for the establishment of a Coastal Commission. His idea was good for New Jersey 30 years ago and remains a good idea today. Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes III, D-Middlesex, recently introduced a proposal to create a Coastal Commission. It is time to move forward on that front.
To hear Mark Mauriello’s comments on Sandy’s impact, go to the video posted on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJaywJ2ORMI. The same page, EnviroPolitics, also has videos on the Sandy recovery from other environmental leaders.
And to learn more about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michele S. Byers is the executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.
Working to Raise Awareness of Pediatric Cancer and Suicide
By Thomas A. Arnone
The Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders believes it is imperative to get the word out in an effort to raise awareness on two critical issues we face right here in our county.
First is the growing problem of pediatric cancer. Because of this rising epidemic, Freeholder Serena DiMaso along with the support of the board, Sheriff Shaun Golden and families of pediatric cancer victims in Monmouth County joined together at the last freeholder’s meeting to proclaim September “Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month.” Moreover, Monmouth County has the third highest rate of cancer in the state, and it is time to figure out why.
The month of September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, which was created to bring attention to the caregivers, charities and groups, who spotlight the importance of the need for research and awareness to aid in finding cures for pediatric cancer. As part of Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month, the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders as well as the communities within will “go gold,” placing gold ribbons and wearing gold clothing to recognize the need for more research in the area of pediatric oncology.
We must do everything we can to promote the awareness and research of this disease that is taking the lives of our children. Our hearts go out to the families affected by cancer, and we sincerely hope that by declaring September as “Go Gold Month,” we can start to raise awareness right here in Monmouth County.
Also at the last meeting of the board, Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini was on hand to receive a proclamation that was drafted by the board in hopes of raising suicide awareness. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of all deaths in the United States and the third leading cause of death among young people, ages 15 to 24 years. With one person committing suicide every 14.2 minutes, it is estimated that 4.73 million people in the United States have lost a loved one to suicide.
Furthermore, it is estimated that more than 50 percent of people who die by suicide use a firearm, and statistics show that guns stored in the house are used for suicide 40 times more often than for self-protection.
Additionally, the stigma associated with mental illness works against suicide prevention because it discourages people at-risk from seeking lifesaving help. For that reason, organizations both public and private should be encouraged to develop educational programs and intervention services to help to end those perceptions.
Through education programs, many public and private organizations develop research projects and intervention services which are dedicated to reducing the frequency of suicide attempts and deaths, and to ease the pain of those affected by loved ones who have committed suicide.
The Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders recognizes suicide as a public health problem and therefore declared suicide prevention to be a priority by proclaiming the week of Sept. 8 to be known as Suicide Prevention Week.
Please join the freeholders in our effort to get the word out on these most critical issues and do what we can as citizens of this great county to help one another.
Thomas A. Arnone is director of the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders.
Two River Moment
Summer – for about two centuries – has meant boys and baseball in the U.S. That was no exception in 1955 when members of this Shrewsbury Little League team posed for their annual photo. Do you recognize anyone?