Advocates Call for Valid Risk Assessment, Mitigation Planning in State’s Draft Post-Sandy Action Plan
March 5th, 2014 by Chris Sturm
Rebuilding Without Forward-Focused Analysis Wastes Taxpayer Funds
New Jersey Future today joined groups of planning and policy organizations in submitting two sets of comments in response to New Jersey’s Draft Sandy Recovery Action Plan, which, if approved, will govern the disbursement of the next $1.46 billion in federal Sandy recovery funds.
The first set of comments addresses two issues: 1) the need for municipalities to conduct robust risk assessments to identify vulnerable areas and assets, and 2) the imperative for a larger investment of funds in planning to provide affected municipalities with the capacity to develop long-term recovery plans that do as much as possible to keep residents and property safe from future storms.
“Rebuilding in high-hazard areas without consideration for future risk and expense is irresponsible. Ignoring data that clearly show where these high-hazard areas are located and how risky they are borders on reprehensible,” said New Jersey Future Executive Director Peter Kasabach.
The current draft plan allocates less than 1 percent of total funds for planning, and the comments call for that to be more than doubled; to have vulnerability assessments required as part of the planning funding; and for more communities to be declared eligible for planning funds. To do otherwise, the comments conclude, would be to squander the generosity of American taxpayers by spending these rebuilding funds on projects that might be significantly at risk in future storms.
Besides New Jersey Future, signatories to the comments include the New Jersey chapter of the American Planning Association, the New Jersey County Planners Association, the New Jersey Association for Flood Plain Management, PlanSmartNJ, and the Regional Plan Association.
“Taxpayers from across the country are watching how New Jersey spends their money on the Sandy recovery process. It is a violation of their trust not to deploy these funds based on avoiding future risks and mitigating future expenses.”
– Chris Sturm, senior director of state policy, New Jersey Future
The second set of comments addresses in greater detail the need for more robust use of risk-analysis tools in the decision-making about the state’s disbursement of funds, including requesting that risk analysis be required, not just considered, and that it be required not just for major infrastructure projects but for a broad variety of rebuilding initiatives that use taxpayer dollars to pay for long-term assets. The comments also ask that any risk analysis calculations be open for public comment.
“New Jersey, along with New York, is in a position to set the national standard for disaster recovery efforts, as well as long-term resiliency and climate preparedness, but in some important ways New Jersey is falling short, despite being given the resources to better protect its communities from the impacts of future storms like Sandy, sea level rise and other impacts of climate change.”
– Rob Moore, senior policy analyst, Natural Resources Defense Council