Winter Storm Recharges NJ’s Push for Shorewide Dunes
New Jersey is currently in court with beachfront property owners who aren't on board with the state's plan for a protective dune system along the entire coastline, but that's not stopping officials from moving ahead with their plan.
During a tour of storm-battered beaches on Monday, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said he's in talks with the Army Corps of Engineers to determine how and when work can begin, despite the legal battles.
"Our goal is to start this year on some segment of northern Ocean County," Martin said at a press event in Ortley Beach, standing alongside Acting Gov. Kim Guadagno.
It was the first planned visit of four on Monday. The tour wrapped up in North Wildwood.
"We can't wait for the outcome of any litigation no matter who wins or loses," Guadagno said. "It's not even a question of whether we do it...get it started and get it started now."
Homeowners in several pockets along the shore have been battling the state's dune plans for years, with some looking to preserve their ocean views and others insisting their private property should not be subject to public use.
"It's a real source of frustration," said Toms River Mayor Tom Kelaher, on hand for the press event. "If what happened over this weekend isn't an example or an incentive for people to sign the damn easements, I don't know what it would take."
Kelaher said he's grateful the dunes along Ocean Ave. held up during the weekend storm. He referred to the dunes as a "stop-gap measure" until the state gets rolling with its shorewide plan.
Mother and son Bob and Carol Major, who've had a home in Ortley Beach since 1985, were happy to see that the wintry mess didn't bring another round of devastation to the area, but they're not sure how much longer temporary dunes will keep their neighborhood safe.
"It's really sad," Carol Major told Townsquare Media. "We need the easements signed to get those dunes right."
"Every time, you have a gut feeling now that every storm is going to be a Sandy when it comes in," Bob Major added.
Beach damage worsened along the southernmost segments of New Jersey's coast. Martin said he's already sent word that funds will be needed to replenish beaches in the short term.