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Preparing Shore Towns for Rising Sea Levels

New state initiative aims to help 15 Shore towns develop strategies to combat rising sea levels, which are expected to increase significantly over next decade

It’s only a matter of time before New Jersey’s coastal regions must face the harsh reality that sea levels are rising, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection, which is projecting significant increases only 10 years from now.

“We are seeing sea level rise projections through 2030 at about just under a foot. As you project that out through 2100, we’re looking at over 5 feet of projected sea level rise. If you add coastal storms on top of that, what you’re seeing in our planning levels are 3 feet, 7 feet and 12 feet of water,” said Nicholas Angarone, chief of DEP’s Bureau of Climate Resilience Planning.

Those planning levels are part of an initiative launched by the DEP to get ahead of the coastal damage that comes with rising seas. It’s called Two Rivers, One Future, New Jersey Fostering Regional Adaptation through Municipal Economic Scenarios, or NJ FRAMES.

“As we’ve seen with sea level rise increasing and coastal flooding becoming more frequent, we know that the communities, and the state, and the county and the feds need to work together to identify how we’re going to best respond to those risks,” said Angarone.

Recommendations were presented to the public at an open house in Middletown, one of the 15 towns included in the initiative; others include Highlands, Rumson, Red Bank, Long Branch and Tinton Falls.

Raising roads, fortifying levees, elevating bridges

They included short-term actions — raising roads and homes, fortifying levees and raising sea wall heights — to longer-term plans like elevating NJ Transit bridges, relocating marinas and designing a new “inland coast” with public waterfront access.

“The type of actions that we’re proposing, they can be implemented now to respond to the events, water levels that they are currently seeing. We fully expect though, that those water levels will increase in frequency and amounts, and so we want to provide them the opportunity to determine how their future will look, based on their vision,” said Angarone.

The DEP says critical to that is the community’s involvement.

“We’re interested in protecting our property, protecting the erosion, protecting the wetlands. And from a regulatory point of view, we’re just having a horrible time getting anywhere. And we’re just here trying to figure out what are the plans? What does the future look like?” said Oceanport resident Gordon Donald.

Cliff Moore, an economic development consultant for the boroughs of Highlands and Keansburg, came to the open house to see what he could learn as the municipalities plan for new development.

“It’s exciting to go around and see the different years and what the projections are, so when someone’s coming in now to make an investment, we need to talk about what are you going to do in the event of a flood. You can still do business in these areas, there’s no doubt about it. It’s all about investment and looking forward,” Moore said.

“The next step in this process is we will develop a cost-benefit analysis for every one of these scenarios so that they can make a fully informed decision about their future,” said Angarone.

That report is expected to be released by the end of the year.

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