In the rush to rebuild the Shore, New Jersey's main environmental groups want governments to remember the painful lessons learned from Sandy.
Decisions on where and how to rebuild will have far-reaching consequences, and if governments ignore the problems pointed out by the storm, they risk setting the state up for more destruction from future storms, the groups say.
A coalition of the state's main environmental organizations issued a joint call Thursday for incorporating the lessons of Sandy into planning and land-use decisions.
They included a set of principles they hope will be included in all rebuilding efforts.
"There will be many decisions to be made as we move forward from Sandy," said Tim Dillingham, head of the American Littoral Society. "These principles, if followed by state, local, and private decision-makers, will result in a restored coastal environment and more resilient communities."
The possibility of not rebuilding in areas routinely trashed by storms needs to be considered, he said.
"I've been told time and time again along the Shore, people saying, 'I never expected that this would come,' " he said. "That's a real failure to inform our communities."
The groups included Clean Ocean Action, Environment New Jersey, the New Jersey Environmental Federation, the Sierra Club, and the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters.
Governments should consider environmental factors in their rebuilding plans, the groups' representatives said. This is a rare opportunity to fix or upgrade infrastructure such as sewer lines that contributed to water pollution before the storm, they added.
Ed Potosnak, head of the league of Conservation Voters, said governments must acknowledge that climate change is real and happening, and that sea levels are rising.
"We don't want to repeat the mistakes of the past, so that when the next storm plays out, it's not playing out like a TV rerun," he said.
Data show that ocean levels have risen 16 inches in 112 years, and over the next 40 years are projected to rise an additional 18 inches.
By 2100, said Emile DeVito, a scientist at the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, they will be at least 41/2 feet higher than they are now.