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In Rush to Restore the Shore, Is NJ Failing to Plan for Next Superstorm?

Although the current Coastal Assessment Report -- issued in 2011 -- still warns about the threats of storms to the coast and the potential, future effects of climate change, the section calling for a “strategic adjustment” away from the water’s edge disappeared after Christie took office, naming Bob Martin as head of the DEP.

“It’s a little unusual for a state that is so vulnerable, that we wouldn’t be highlighting that,” says Mark Mauriello, who served as DEP Commissioner from 2008 to 2010. Although he was appointed by then-Gov. John Corzine, Mauriello had worked at the department for three decades under every governor since Brendan Byrne, and says he considered himself a career scientist, uninterested in politics. Since he’s left, he’s watched what he feels is a disturbing trend of the leadership at the DEP being filled by people from business, real estate, and banking.

“I don’t know any of them, so this isn’t a personal criticism by any means,” he says, “But when I look at folks who manage these important programs in an environmental agency, I really would look for folks who have some experience and background in that field which they’re supposed to manage.”

Mauriello is concerned that since the decision-makers at the top are managing programs and policies without having science backgrounds to inform their principles, they may not fully understand the dangers of coastal overdevelopment. Several other, former DEP employees who were interviewed for this story but did not wish to be identified said they agreed with that assessment, though some felt it’s unfair to point the finger any one person or administration. They said rampant overdevelopment has been occurring for decades, with the backing of governors and lawmakers of both parties.

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