The 2021 Summer at the Jersey Shore was the Perfect Pandemic Respite for millions of residents and out of state visitors. The Fall season, many say, is really the best season at the Jersey Shore. In fact, our beaches are there for us year-round. We are a coastal state. Throughout our history, New Jerseyans have accepted responsibility to protect our coast, the first line of defense from devastating storms that destroy infrastructure, property, livelihoods, and the state’s tourism economy.
Today, this responsibility presents formidable challenges. New Jersey must be prepared to respond to an increasingly volatile and uncertain climate change environment that is causing sea-levels to rise, chronic flooding on the coast and inland, rising temperatures, and more frequent and intense storm events. The State’s climate resilience strategies are a guide for state and local governments to strengthen New Jersey against climate impacts.
Thirty years ago, before climate change became a lexicon in our vocabulary, the state Legislature recognized that New Jersey needed a dedicated source of funding for coastal protection. The Legislature established the Shore Protection Fund in 1992 with a $15 million annual dedicated allocation and increased to $25 million in 1998.
Bills (S1071 and A639) are before the Legislature to increase dedicated funding for the Shore Protection Fund from its current level of $25 million annually to $50 million annually. Legislative approval of the increased funding will provide the State with the resources to implement its climate resilience strategies. Recognizing the serious shortfall in funding, the Legislature approved a one-year $20 million appropriation in the 2022 budget. However, New Jersey needs a dedicated long-term sustainable investment in shore protection to address the threats of climate change.
Climate change is threatening the future of our coast. We learned from Super Storm Sandy that it is far more costly to repair storm damage to unprotected beaches than to replenished and maintained beaches. Damage to our coast impacts everyone’s health, safety, and economy.
We have a choice: We can accept the reality as a coastal state to continue funding coastal protection OR let our beaches erode and disappear endangering our communities and our safety. To date, New Jersey has chosen to save our coastline that protects us, enhances our quality of life, and annually returns millions of dollars in tourism revenue and federal cost-share dollars that support the State’s coastal projects.
Increase in dedicated funding for the Shore Protection Fund will re-affirm our commitment to shore protection and provide a sustainable long-term resource to address the increasingly complex and costly impacts of climate change.