The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Gov Christie Appeals to Feds for Aid

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Governor Chris Christie is calling for the construction of a dune system to protect costal communities from future storms.

Despite protests from shoreline NIMBYs who complain that the new dunes will block their view, Christie has vowed to push ahead with the project, teaming up with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in a bid for federal funding. The FT reports:

Mr Christie, a Republican, has previously sounded more sceptical than Mr Cuomo, a Democrat, about using state powers to dictate how the state was rebuilt. But he said on Wednesday he might take away local towns’ power to grant “easements” to homeowners objecting to new dunes blocking their sea views and would not rule out using government powers to purchase properties it believed were in the wrong place.

“I have to protect the Jersey shore, both as an economic engine and as a cultural engine,” Mr Christie said.

One potential barrier in the way of the demands to the federal government from both states is the battle in Congress over the looming fiscal cliff combination of tax rises and spending cuts and general Republican hostility to any spending increases.

Mr Christie made himself unpopular with his party before the presidential election by embracing President Barack Obama and praising his handling of the storm.

Disaster relief is one area where the feds should have a role. But coastal flooding, aggravated by decades of misbegotten policy that encouraged development in flood-prone coastal zones, is a special case. People should be free to build in dangerous places, but the rest of us shouldn’t have to subsidize their losses.

Fortunately, Governor Christie doesn’t want to spend piles of federal money to restore New Jersey to the pre-Sandy status quo. He’s quite sensibly taking advantage of this catastrophe to reduce New Jersey’s vulnerability to future storms. Perhaps he’ll even cue other governors to address disaster preparedness in their states. This is worth the federal aid.

Published on November 30, 2012 12:22 pm