NJ - ‘Bottom-up’ plan underway to catalogue N.J.’s vulnerable coastal communities
As the Murphy administration works toward its goal of better preparing the state for the impacts of climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, the Department of Environmental Protection is increasingly focusing on the roughly 1,800 miles of tidal marshes, estuaries and back bays of New Jersey’s coastal zone.
But with well over 100 municipalities in that region, most with their own land use rules and needs, and each with a unique set of environmental challenges, it would be virtually impossible to develop from Trenton alone a comprehensive outline of climate priorities based on urgency and individual vulnerability.
To avoid the blind spots that can come from top-down climate policy and funding allocations, a team of researchers from the DEP, Rutgers University, Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve, Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, and other environmental groups is working at the local level to map areas across the state that offer the largest value for net carbon sequestration, ecosystem health, and community resilience — three key priorities in Gov. Phil Murphy’s climate agenda.
“Ecosystem projects need landowner and community buy-in and need to be maintained over time to function, just like a garden,” said Liz Semple, a manager in the DEP’s Office of Coastal and Land Use Planning. “We’re looking to identify areas and ultimately projects that will have state, regional or local/nonprofit champions.”
Harnessing local knowledge
The initiative, called the Coastal Ecological Restoration and Adaptation Plan and funded by a $150,000 grant from the DEP, will be implementing a nomination process to identify projects that address these priorities in critical areas of the state. Ultimately, the list will be synthesized into a publicly available map layered with in-progress and potential projects that focus on either environmental restoration, enhancement or preservation. Completed projects going back at least 10 years will also be included.