Climate change causing environmental concerns for Ocean County
From Superstorm Sandy to Tropical Storm Ida and every storm in between, Ocean County is among the areas who've bourn the brunt of Mother Nature's wrath.
Could we have known as a society? Should we have known? What can we do as individuals, leaders and groups to lower the risk of any storm damage in the future?
The effects of Ida didn't come as a surprise or shock to New Jersey DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette, as he explained to those at the Ocean County Mayor's Association monthly meeting in Toms River on Wednesday.
It's not because he became Nostradamus 2.0 or Phil the Groundhog -- even though such prognostication is thought provoking -- it's because LaTourette has reviewed numbers and science from federal studies going back 22-years.
We're in some trouble as sea levels rise and flooding continues to wreak havoc in Ocean County and across the entire Jersey Shore be it back bays or elsewhere.
"I think the biggest threats that we have to worry about are two-fold coming in from the ocean -- in the form of sea level rise and storm surge -- it's not a far off threat, quite honestly, if anything surprises me it's that we haven't seen another Sandy in the last nearly decade, so that's coming," LaTourette told Townsquare Media News after the OC Mayor's meeting. "We shouldn't lull ourselves into believing that somehow we're more safe from those events, because we're not."
LaTourette explains that he doesn't bring these issues or concerns up to scary anyone but to bring attention to them and so that we can all work together to find solutions to prevent or lower the risk of as much damage as there could be if nothing or not enough is done.
"In some instances, that means building up from the water, building a little bit back from the water -- there's a way to become more resilient to climate change without punishing our communities and their growth or stunting any type of economic progress," LaTourette said. "We have an opportunity, actually, to ensure the long-term viability of that progress by how we invest today in the things that will stand the test of time."
There will be some federal funding coming into New Jersey in 2022 that can help with that effort on the county and municipal levels especially.
"What I think is important is to focus on the long-term viability of the communities that we love and of our tourism industry," LaTourette said. "What I see the need for in Ocean County is to make sure that there is a seat at the table as we're forming the intended use plans that will govern that spending of new federal dollars. How we become more resilient has in part has to do with how we upgrade our storm sewer systems and so there will be a tremendous amount of new federal investment in that. It would be wise for any Ocean County community to assess those needs and talk to DEP about having a seat at the table which they will certainly have in the formation of the intended use plan so we're sure that it meets their needs, so that when they design a project it will be eligible for more state and federal funding."