TRENTON – Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes III on Thursday introduced legislation designed to ensure smart and efficient reconstruction of the Jersey Shore following Hurricane Sandy under the guidance of a newly formed coastal commission that would coordinate planning efforts.
The bill would establish a New Jersey Coastal Commission.
“We need to promote the protection, preservation and restoration of our Shore through comprehensive planning, regulation and cooperation,” said Barnes (D-Middlesex). “The impact of Hurricane Sandy will be felt for years, but we must take this opportunity to make certain our shore communities come back stronger than ever. If we’re going to invest so much money and time in this rebuilding effort, we need to make sure we do it right.”
Under the bill, the commission would be involved in the coastal areas of Atlantic, Cape May, Ocean, Monmouth and Middlesex counties.
The commission would have jurisdiction within that area for all planning activities and approvals related to applications for development, land use permitting and approvals, beach erosion and shore protection projects undertaken or proposed and oversight of the spending and use of any monies received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or any other source related to reconstruction from Hurricane Sandy.
“We would be making sure that all the best practices are used to combat disaster floods and minimize future damage,” Barnes said. “We need to make sure all the charm and uniqueness of this area of New Jersey is preserved, but we also need to do it the proper way so we’re not spending money to rebuild the same areas every few years when better planning would have served us better. We need a smart and efficient approach.”
The commission would consist of 19 members, including 10 residents of the counties of Atlantic, Cape May, Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean counties, and nine residents of the state, of whom three are to be appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate, three are to be appointed by the Governor upon the recommendation of the President of the Senate and three are to be appointed by the Governor upon the recommendation of the Speaker of the General Assembly.
In addition, these nine members are to have, to the maximum extent practicable, demonstrated expertise and interest in coastal issues and be actively connected with, or have experience in natural resources protection, environmental protection, water quality protection, agriculture, forestry, land use, or economic development.
In addition, the commission is directed to request the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to each appoint a representative to serve as an advisor to the commission.
Under the bill, the commission shall exercise its power to:
- Protect, preserve, and restore the environmental quality and natural resources of the New Jersey’s coastal commission area, and, consistent with the protection and preservation thereof, maintain the long-term economic viability of the coastal commission area, and ensure public access to, and use or enjoyment of, the natural, scenic, recreation, and historic resources in the coastal commission area;
- Provide a comprehensive approach to protecting the environment by managing growth in the coastal commission area, noting regional differences and acting in close cooperation with local government units;
- Protect the ocean’s renewable resources by acting to improve the quality of near coastal and estuary waters and coastal habitats;
- Preserve and promote the natural, scenic, recreation, and historic aspects of the coastal commission area; and
- Ensure that regulations governing the coastal commission area are understandable and provide for the widest public participation in the commission’s decision making processes.
Within nine months of its organizational meeting, and after public hearings in each county within the coastal commission area, the commission would adopt a coastal management plan.
The plan would be reviewed, revised, and readopted at least once every five years. The commission would provide for maximum feasible local government and public participation in the plan’s preparation, and consider input from federal, state, county and municipal entities in preparing the plan.
“The goal of coastal management plan is to protect, preserve and, where practicable, restore, the natural resources and environmental qualities of the coastal commission area,” Barnes said. “The more we think long-term about rebuilding our shore, the better off we’ll be as a state. The taxpayers and our economy would benefit from better planning and coordination, as would the residents and businesses of our shore communities.”
All state, regional, county and municipal government entities would have to comply with the coastal management plan.
The commission would also be directed to develop a coordination and consistency plan for achieving intergovernmental coordination of policies and programs to promote the policies and goals of the coastal management plan, and for integrating into the plan land, water and structures managed in the public interest by governmental or nongovernmental entities.
The bill also creates four regional advisory councils for the purpose of advising the commission in all of its actions, including but not limited to, the development of the coastal management plan, project priority lists, other plans, rules and regulations and any other matter referred to the councils by the commission.
“We need to do this right, not only to get the shore back on its feet, but to ensure better planning so we’re not rebuilding it time after time,” Barnes said. “This is all about cooperation to make sure the upcoming investment in reconstruction can stand the test of time as best as possible.”