We don't doubt that Assemblyman Peter Barnes - who is proposing that a new state coastal commission be created to take over the post-Sandy rebuilding of the shore - means well. He's a solid lawmaker known for common sense rather than showboating.
But creating a new agency to take over all zoning and planning along the state's nearly 130 miles of coastline is neither necessary nor wise.
Barnes explained his proposal this way to The Star-Ledger:
"Let's say a shore town wants to rebuild a boardwalk and put it in the same spot. Let's say various environmental, zoning and planning experts believe that is not the right place to put it. I don't think the individual town should have the complete authority to make that decision."
We agree with that notion to a point. But the fact is, towns do not really have that complete authority now. The state's Coastal Area Facilities Review Act, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Flood Insurance Program and the Army Corps of Engineers will have a great deal to say about how the shore rebuilds.
The Press did support former Gov. Tom Kean's proposal for a coastal commission back in the 1980s - but environmental laws, particularly CAFRA, were far weaker then.
Furthermore, Gov. Chris Christie already has appointed Marc Ferzan, a former assistant state attorney general and a former colleague of Christie's in the U.S. Attorney's Office, to coordinate all Sandy recovery efforts, including developing mitigation strategies to guide the rebuilding. Having a single point person in the Governor's Office to guide the rebuilding will go a long way toward ensuring a certain amount of sensible uniformity.
And while FEMA, the Army Corps and the National Flood Insurance Program can't require towns to do anything they don't want to do, they do offer some powerful disincentives for rebuilding irresponsibly - such as the loss of emergency aid after future storms, higher flood insurance premiums and the loss of beach-replenishment help.
But a brand new agency, another layer of bureaucracy, with a director and a staff and, probably, a fleet of white Jeeps?
New Jersey doesn't need that. New Jersey can't afford that.
And besides, what Barnes, D-Middlesex, overlooks is that the Jersey Shore is not monolithic. One size does not fit all. In fact, there are remarkable demographic, geographic and socioeconomic differences among the state's coastal towns.
And these towns should be free to decide for themselves how to handle FEMA's new flood zones and other rebuilding issues - as long as they are willing to accept the consequences of their decisions.