NORTH WILDWOOD — Just a few weeks after a leading forecaster predicted that East Coast residents can expect a busy hurricane season, Gov. Chris Christie said that New Jersey’s beaches aren’t ready to take on another storm.
During a press conference Tuesday at Morey’s Surfside Pier in North Wildwood, Christie said that the state has learned a lot from Sandy, but more needs to be done to be stronger than the next storm that strikes the Jersey Coast.
“We are and we aren’t,” Christie said when asked if we were ready for the upcoming hurricane season.
The Colorado Sate University hurricane forecast team of Philip J. Klotzbach and William M. Gray issued an update to their 2013 hurricane forecast on Aug. 2 that states the East Coast can expect an above-average hurricane season this year, with as many as 14 named tropical storms.
Some of those storms, according to the forecasters, could have winds of more than 35 mph.
“I think in certain ways we’re a lot more ready for a storm because of the things we learned,” Christie said. “I think the place where we aren’t ready is on our beaches.”
He mentioned that dune systems down the coast had been destroyed by Sandy, and many were in the process of being rebuilt.
“We were never going to be ready for this storm season with dunes,” he said. He did say that projects like North Wildwood’s $3.2 million beach replenishment and dune reconstruction are being completed around the state, though.
Christie has also proposed building a 127-mile dune system down the state, but that will require both time and easements from beachfront residents.
“There are 11,000 people with beachfront property from Sandy Hook to Cape May who have not given easements to the Army Corp of Engineers to protect their views,” Christie said.
That project, once all the easements are signed, will take about two summers to complete, he said. More than $1 billion of the state’s Sandy federal aid package has been devoted to the project.
“The people who live inland are tired of having their homes damaged and destroyed because people who own homes on the beach don’t want to give permission to build a dune,” Christie added. “If it hurts your view, go to the second floor.”
While the beaches may not be ready, Christie did say that coastal residents have learned a lot since Hurricanes Irene and Sandy. Particularly, he mentioned the sheltering system has improved, and that those asked to evacuate will take that command seriously.
“We’ve learned a lot over the last two terms about sheltering and having all the supplies needed to shelter people sufficiently,” he said.
He also touched on the vulnerability of the state’s electrical grid, which Christie said was being improved. However, those improvements won’t be ready until the next storm season.
“We’re ready from the perspective that we’ve learned a lot from the last few,” he said.
However, Christie said that he was hoping New Jersey would be spared from another damaging hurricane.
“I have my fingers crossed that we don’t have anything big between now and October,” Christie said. “That would be nice. It would be nice to have a year off from a hurricane.”
Earlier in the conference, Christie also called out state Assemblyman John McKeon, a Democrat who represents Morris and Essex County, for allegedly not signing over his easement on beachfront property he owns in Brick.
“He should be leading by example, and instead he’s being greedy and wanting to be paid for an easement that will ultimately protect his home and the homes of his neighbors.” Christie said, and called on McKeon to sign the easement today.
McKeon responded that he would sign off on an easement, but wanted to know exactly where the dune was going to be placed before he did so, and said he had requested a “metes and bounds” description from the state and municipality. That document, he said, would describe where the exactly the dune was going.
“I’m 100 percent committed to an integrated dune system,” McKeon responded in a prepared statement. “To call my family, and by extension countless others, ‘greedy’ is completely ignorant on the governor’s part. Now is not the time for flippant name calling or politics. We should be working together to help make this already difficult process easier for families that were impacted by Sandy.”
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