The exploration of possibilities for reducing Jersey Shore flooding has only just begun and some agencies and environmentalists already are complaining that options they don’t like are being considered.
The first interim report on the feasibility of reducing back bay flooding came out in March, a joint effort of the state Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Barely a month later, the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and environmental groups criticized the first possibe approaches considered under the state-federal multi-year study.
Perhaps this was due to a public relations error by the Army Corps and DEP. Their study’s initial phase only considered where big structures such as flood gates, walls and levees could be effective along the ocean and Delaware Bay coasts.
Environmental groups and Fish and Wildlife said they were disappointed that nature-based flood mitigation, acquiring properties or relocating people weren’t part of the interim report. But the Army Corps and DEP had made clear that future phases of the study will consider those possibilities and more.
The National Park Service offered a long list of possible harms to its Great Egg Wild & Scenic River from a possible flood gate between Longport and Ocean City that the study had found could significantly reduce flooding. Maybe closing such a gate in a storm would disrupt fish migration or flushing of the estuary. Maybe an almost always open gate would somehow reduce water quality, and it would certainly “forever alter” the scenic view east from the Garden State Parkway bridge.
Those are legitimate concerns for some point in this decades-long process, but they may look increasingly small compared to the potential cost to people along the coast and even across the state and nation. Any plan that works will involve massive expenditures of political will and public money.
Sea levels are rising and the populations and properties at risk are still increasing. An adequate response to storm flooding will look nothing like business as usual. The DEP and Army Corps should be allowed to complete their feasibility study before attempts are made to alarm or otherwise sway the public.
For now, keeping the following goals in mind should be sufficient. The best flood mitigation plan for the Jersey Shore, even the nation as a whole, will be scientifically sound, politically fair and cost-effective.