Mixed reaction in NJ to Obama order on considering climate change in storm rebuilding

Reaction is mixed in New Jersey to President Barack Obama’s executive order that climate change be considered when coastal communities rebuild from future storms.

The order directs all government agencies distributing federal aid to take rising sea levels into account. And it requires that new homes built along the Shore be elevated two feet above current FEMA requirements.

That’s something Brick Township put into effect a few months after Superstorm Sandy, said Mayor John Duci.

“It makes people’s houses safer, which obviously saves people’s lives and possessions,” he said. “But also because when people are rebuilding it doesn’t really add much cost to the actual project by just going up the extra two feet.”

Toms River resident George Kasimos, who founded the group Stop FEMA Now, objects to the president’s order. Changing flood maps to reflect higher elevation requirements will push up residents’ flood insurance costs, Kasimos said, and hurt the housing market in flood zones.

New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel, who welcomed Obama’s order, said it’s vital to rebuild structures with enough resilience to deal with rising sea levels.

“Sea level rise is happening. It’s real. Storm surges are real,” he said. “Unless we elevate structures or build in a way that will help be resistant to what’s happening along our coast, then we’re just wasting a lot of time and money and putting more people in harm’s way.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.