Asbury Park Press Editorial (APP.com), April 21, 2013
Why are towns on their own?
Seaside Heights Mayor Bill Akers announced last week that he has enlisted the aid of the Rutgers University Institute of Marine and Coastal Science to help answer questions about how to best protect his town from future storms.
While this news is undoubtedly welcome, six months after superstorm Sandy battered the Jersey Shore, it raises at least two questions:
1. Why is it that towns up and down the Jersey Shore are left to find their own experts and answers, rather than being able to rely on some central state or federal clearinghouse where expert advice and best practices are readily available?
We thought that was the job of the New Jersey storm czar, Marc Ferzan, hired by Gov. Chris Christie at an annual salary of $141,000 to coordinate efforts on all levels of government to help with the recovery.
If Ferzan was hired to be the point person for the recovery, to be the public face for the efforts to help towns come back from Sandy better prepared and better protected, the mayor should not have had to go somewhere else for the answers and advice he sought. If Ferzan’s job description doesn’t include overseeing efforts for coastal preparedness against future storms, someone else in the Christie administration should be responsible.
And if the state of New Jersey does not have the expertise to handle it on its own, it needs to go to the federal government. It is critical that storm protection efforts be coordinated. While every beach town is unique, the beaches do not end at the boundaries of those towns. Left on their own, well-meaning municipal leaders could find themselves working at cross-purposes, the result of which would be less storm protection for many, not more.
2. Why have so many Shore towns adopted a “build first, ask questions later” modus operandi?
Many towns, citing the importance of tourism to their local economy, have felt pressure to rebuild before the summer season gets under way. But again, without clear guidance from the state or federal government on the best ways to protect the shoreline from future storms of similar magnitude, all the pre-Memorial Day hustle and bustle could wind up being for naught.
Akers, in addition to citing the need to rebuild quickly to accommodate the tens of thousands of summer guests that support the borough’s businesses, also says he wants to take time to find the most effective option for storm protection.
Rutgers has agreed to assist the borough by sharing what its scientists know about coastal protection, and it also hopes to establish a university-run science facility on the boardwalk. It’s a good thing that Rutgers has agreed to lend its expertise to a community in recovery. And Akers is to be commended for reaching out for answers.
What is not so admirable is that no one in the Christie administration or in the federal government seems able to provide Akers with the answers he and Seaside Heights are seeking.
Highlighting and Following comment by JA Coan
Editor’s Comment: Doesn’t this appear that the Governor, after the initial reactions and press briefings (great for a national run) has let towns struggle by themselves, Where is his “Sandy Czar”, who was supposed to oversee coastal preparedness against future storms?