Sandy bills clear Environment Committee

TRENTON – Sandy-related bills cleared the Assembly Environment Committee Monday, including one to give counties control over beaches.

A3891  would authorize Atlantic, Monmouth, Ocean, and Cape May counties to assume the responsibility for the operation of the beaches that border the Atlantic Ocean. It passed along party lines.

The Sierra Club’s Jeff Tittel said that the bill deals with a concept that should have been done years ago.  “You save a lot of money’’ by having this done countywide, he said, adding it would help tourism.

The bill was amended to bring it in line with the Senate version in which a municipality could opt out and reserve control to itself.

Monmouth and Ocean counties both oppose the bill, believing this should remain a local issue, John Donnadio of the N.J. Association of Counties said.

Assemblyman Paul Contillo said he saw the practical problems involved; individual towns can be sometimes better equipped to handle the beach as opposed to an overarching county approach.

Chair Assemblywoman Grace Spencer said that Superstorm Sandy exposed problems at the beaches involving different towns taking different approaches to address what is increasingly a regional problem.

Voting on the bill was less than routine.

The committee took a recess after the two GOP members voted no and new Democratic member Contillo asked if the bill could be held so that he could review it further.

Spencer and Contillo conferred and then he voted yes.

A1205: Requires boil water notices to be provided by public water systems

via telephone, email or text message. Supporters included the League of Municipalities, the Food Council and the Sierra Club. It passed unanimously.

A3500: This bill would require the Department of Environmental Protection to prepare an update to the New Jersey Shore Protection Master Plan.  The State’s current plan was issued in October 1981.  It passed unanimously.

A3893: This bill repeals a portion of a law that granted the Commissioner of Environmental Protection the authority to waive the permit requirements of the “Coastal Area Facility Review Act.

The law regulates certain construction activities in the coastal area for any development that involves the grading or excavation of a dune if the commissioner finds that such a waiver is warranted as a result of a storm, natural disaster or similar act of God. It passed 5-1 with Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi voting no.

A4288:  This bill amends current law to expand the powers of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission to specifically include flood control activities.  The commission is vested with numerous responsibilities; however, current law only provides that the master plan for the Hackensack Meadowlands District may include provisions for flood control. It passed unanimously.

A4316:   This bill establishes the Meadowlands Flood Advisory Task Force to review past flooding events within the Hackensack Meadowlands District, and recommending measures to reduce future impacts of flooding. It passed 5-0-1 with Holly Schepisi abstaining for the moment.

The Hackensack Meadowlands District includes Carlstadt, East Rutherford, Little Ferry, Lyndhurst, Moonachie, North Arlington, Ridgefield, Rutherford, South Hackensack, and Teterboro in Bergen county, and Jersey City, Kearny, North Bergen, and Secaucus in Hudson county.

Sandy bills clear Environment Committee