State DEP issues projection on potential risks of rising sea levels up through 2100
The state Department of Environmental Protection is working on land regulations and is considering the impact of climate changes up to the year 2100.
But some business leaders say that the regulations could lead banks to demand that homeowners buy flood insurance on land that won’t flood for at least another 80 years.
“We lose acres of wetlands every week along our Delaware Bayshore, as a function of sea level rise and subsidence,” says acting DEP administrator Shawn LaTourette. “We are sinking, quite literally, and the sea is rising.”
Gov. Murphy has directed the state DEP to look 80 years ahead to prepare for rising sea levels, and to draw up new land use regulations that could be on the books by next year. It is a decision that the New Jersey Business & Industry Association says could negatively impact the state.
“Literally people in the year 2022 will be regulated as if there’s a 5-foot sea level rise potentially in the year 2100,” says NJBIA’s Ray Cantor.
Cantor says that the NJBIA objects that the DEP is using a Rutgers study that found unchecked emissions could lead to up to 5 feet of sea level rise in New Jersey by 2100. At that rate, the Shark River could spill into Belmar during flooding, and average daily tides would inundate Atlantic City.
“Basically, take almost half the state and put it into a flood zone and make it much more difficult, if not impossible, for people to live their lives and for the economy to grow,” Cantor says.
But LaTourette says that this is not true.
“DEP is not going to go about telling people all the things they can’t do and all the places they can’t build,” he says.
The DEP projects that a sea level rise of 5.1 feet or more by 2100 has about a 17% chance of happening. The agency says there is a 5% chance sea level rise will be more than 6.9 feet. LaTourette says the true worst-case scenario is more than 8 feet of sea level rise, where Newark Liberty airport could be underwater, and Hoboken cut off from the mainland if flood mitigation efforts fail.
“Once DEP starts saying about half the state is going to be in a flood zone, about half the state is going to have to start getting flood insurance when they finance their properties,” Cantor says. “And that could be, by the way, not only a mortgage but a home equity loan.”
“It's not going to put the state - 50% of the state in a flood zone. Forty-five percent of the state already is a flood zone,” LaTourette says. “What the proposal will do is add 2%. That 45% will become 47%. That's all we're talking about.”
The rule proposal should come out this summer and be adopted next year. The NJBIA says the rule will take effect immediately, and so will flood insurance requirements.