WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
NJ After Sandy: To Rebuild or To Re-Design?
Friday, November 16, 2012
New Jersey is now going about the painstaking task of assessing the damage done by Sandy and determining what can be replaced and what is lost forever. A spokesman for Governor Christie confirms that the Governor expects to have a preliminary dollar estimate Friday of the damage wrought by Sandy.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney says Sandy is forcing Trenton to re-evaluate everything from land use policies to upgrading the state's power grid.
The state can't afford to ignore the growing severity of the storms and the prolonged power outages they bring, Sweeney said.
"I am 53 years old and we are getting hit by storms I never saw in my whole life until just recently--tornadoes. it is just different. We just can't rebuild the way we have always re-built," Sweeney said.
Sweeney says one critical need he's already identified is back up generator capacity for schools, hospitals, kidney dialysis centers and high rise senior citizen housing.
New Jersey's prolonged power outage post Sandy has raised serious issues about the age of the state's power grid.
State Senator Ray Lesniak chairs the committee with oversight over the state's utilities. He says both the state's power companies and the state Board of Public Utilities have to make storm proofing the power grid a top priority.
"But the overall problem is just generally, it is a system that was built 100 years ago and we haven't invested in its upgrade either in bricks and mortar or in technology," Lesniak said.
Lesniak said he believed consumers would be willing to pay higher electricity rates for a more reliable power supply.
Sandy's unprecedented 80 to 90 mile per hour tropical force winds snapped more than 5,600 utility poles and destroyed 2,200 transformers state wide. The accompanying storm surge knocked out critical substations, some of which were actually built in the flood plain.
The Legislature is planning to hold public hearings all around the state with the first one scheduled for November 26th in Toms River, N.J., a hard hit area of Ocean County.