Commitment sought to fund ‘green’ projects in Monmouth County

FREEHOLD, NJ – Freeholder John D’Amico attended the second annual Local Clean Energy and Climate Leadership Summit in Washington D.C. recently and met with key federal policymakers to advocate for energy and climate legislation that would provide financial support to local governments for projects that will reduce energy consumption and global warming.

D’Amico joined 75 local government leaders throughout the country who met with officials from a half dozen federal agencies and key congressional leaders to urge continued federal support to local governments for projects that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make government buildings and vehicles more energy efficient.

“Monmouth County received $4.2 million last year to install energy efficient boilers and chillers in county buildings, LED traffic lights and a Park System solar project,” D’Amico said. “Continuing this program would provide an ongoing source of funding to implement additional local initiatives that conserve energy, promote renewable energy, cut carbon pollution and create jobs.”

D’Amico also moderated a roundtable with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on the importance of building a strong partnership between NOAA and local governments across the country as they work to reduce emissions and prepare for the impacts of climate change.

“In my introduction, I pointed out that Monmouth County has 29 miles of Atlantic Ocean beaches and 28 miles on the Bayshore,” D’Amico said. “More than two-thirds of Monmouth County’s 664,000 population live in our coastal communities. As a result of warming on our planet, sea level rose 10 to 18 inches on the New Jersey coast during the last century. The projected sea level rise by 2020 will be between 5 to 10 inches, depending on the rapidity of the ice melt.”

“I have witnessed beach erosion since I was a child with houses and roads washing into the Atlantic Ocean; this is a chronic problem,” D’Amico added.

The loss of tidal wetlands is a major concern because wetland ecosystems provide flood controls, storm surge buffers, water quality buffers and fish nursery areas. Expanding flood-hazard areas are increasing the risk to people and property, disaster recovery costs, saline intrusion on our water supply, and power outages.

“We have multi-hazard vulnerability to storms, wind, storm surges, wave run-up and over wash, particularly at the sea wall in Sea Bright and Monmouth Beach, and tidal flooding of river towns,” D’Amico said. “In addition, the erosion of protective dunes in the Bayshore has prompted the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to require flood insurance in a wide area.”

Monmouth County is implementing some stop-gap measures, such as a coastal evacuation plan. And the Monmouth County Planning Board is preparing a Coastal Monmouth Plan that recognizes the  state, the county and its municipalities need to plan for flexible responses to sea level rise and its potential impacts on developed areas and natural resources.

“The county is still relying heavily on shoreline armoring with sea walls and bulkheads as well as beach replenishment and reconstruction of dunes,” D’Amico said. “Future adaptation to sea level rise is not just an engineering issue; it is also a land use issue.”

Land use options include:

  • Minimizing new development on beach, dune and coastal wetland retreat zones to minimize the need for structural responses;
  • Creating buffers to protect wetlands and other sensitive habitats that should be “rolling” with the shoreline retreat;
  • Use of dune protection and stabilization or salt marsh restoration instead of shoreline armoring;
  • Acquisition of developed properties in high hazard zones as part of a “Coastal Blue Acres” program;
  • Identification and mapping of at-risk sensitive habitats and special status  species so changes in habitats or populations can be addressed, and
  • Landward migration and elevation of wetland boundaries in anticipation of increasing tidal inundation by use of sediments and dredged material.

“In short, what is needed is a ‘natural resource response program’ to anticipate impacts from sea level rise to ensure the continuation of ecosystem functions and the socio-economic values of Monmouth County’s coastal natural resources for future generations,” D’Amico said.

Panelists from Florida described serious coastal flooding problems. Dan Walker, division chief of NOAA’s Climate and Societal Interactions Program, said NOAA has a $30 million research program and is committed to helping local governments develop adaptation and mitigation strategies.

For example, NOAA is planning to undertake a detailed study of the coastal region between Philadelphia and Boston in 2011, and is working with the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers on strategies to help cities and counties adapt to climate change.

Finally, D’Amico joined with representatives of Transportation for America to request transportation efficiency provisions and funding for clean transportation in the Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act. The transportation sector is the second-largest and fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emission, and accounts for nearly 70 percent the country’s oil use.

“Funding for clean transportation would provide Americans with low-cost transportation choices that will save them money on gasoline, create green jobs, invest in their communities and start to build a 21st century transportation system that this country needs to remain economically competitive,” D’Amico said.