New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection has issued a new proposed rule to regulate construction and development in flood zones. The 900-plus-page document is drawing fire from critics, reports online news organization NJSpotlight.com (see: “State Proposes Revisions to Rules Governing Flood-Zone, Coastal Construction,” by Scott Gurian).
“A statement posted on DEP’s website billed the revisions as “part of the Christie Administration’s ongoing effort to add common sense and predictability to overly burdensome state rules and regulations,’” NJSpotlight.com reported. But Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra club, disagreed: “I’ve done 20 years of work to keep people out of harm’s way, and they’ve just killed all of it,” said Tittel, adding: “Christie said he wants to eliminate red tape. The problem here is that the red tape he wants to eliminate is protecting people from flooding.”
The revised rule draft is available as a PDF download here (see: “Flood Hazard Area Control Act Rules; Coastal Zone Management Rules; and Stormwater Management Rules”).
But state DEP official Vincent Mazzei, who authored the new rule, characterized the new rule as a moderate tweak to some details, saying: “We basically adjusted a lot of the standards to make sure that in the real world they work, but at the same time, have the same level of protection that we always intended.” Mazzei added, “We’re not changing our flood zone protection standards at all. If anything, we’ve increased it in some cases where we noticed there were some problems before.”
The New Jersey Builders Association supported the rule revision, reports the North Jersey Record (see: “Christie aims to ease rules on limiting development along the state’s rivers and streams,” by James M. O’Neill). Elizabeth George-Cheniara, vice president of regulatory affairs with the New Jersey Builders Association, called the proposal “another initiative by the department to organize, align, and standardize the underlying permitting rules for a significant and complex land use program,” the paper reported. Small projects such as swimming pools or additions would see an easier permitting process under the revised rule, officials said. The current permit process imposes “unnecessary regulatory burdens and red tape,” Department of Environmental Protection commissioner Bob Martin said. “These rule changes will correct those problems while maintaining our high standards for protection of our waterways and mitigation of flooding.”