Judges Approve New Jersey Coastal Dune Projects, Despite Protesting Residents

August 22, 2017

Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s administration’s plan for storm protection along the entire 127 miles (204 kilometers) of New Jersey’s coast was endorsed by two courts this week, but residents of some beach towns still aren’t happy.

A state judge on Wednesday ruled against the attempt by homeowners in Bay Head, Mantoloking and Point Pleasant Beach to opt out of the protective sand dune plan in an area devastated by Superstorm Sandy.

The dune project resumed in Margate last weekend after a federal judge overruled a state judge’s decision to stop it. On Tuesday, a federal appeals court refused to halt the project in Margate.

Margate had gone to court to stop the project after heavy rain late last month led to pools of bacteria-laden water on the beach, some 2 or more feet (0.6 meters or more) deep. Residents who had warned of the possibility during a previously unsuccessful court fight dubbed the pools “Lake Christie.”

“Drain the swamp. Locals know best,” said one sign from protesters who gathered on the beach last weekend.

“You’re, like, beaching in a middle of a construction zone,” said Margate homeowner Anne Rubin. “I have been on a Margate beach for 61 years, my entire life. We’ve managed to have the beaches lovely and beautiful, and they are changing the Margate beaches now, and it’s not the same thing.”

Judge Renee Marie Bumb ordered the engineers to investigate the root causes of the ponding and possible solutions, pump out future ponding immediately after reaching 4 inches rather than waiting 24 hours and construct elevated walkways across the water basins.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said contractors added more sand to the areas where the ponding happened to raise the elevation and set up a procedure for testing water quality there. It is also continuing to build elevated walkways.

“They’re going to go away and Margate is going to be left pumping out the water. I don’t hear a plan that they’re figuring this out,” Rubin said.

In the Bay Head case, Superior Court Judge Marlene Lynch Ford ruled against homeowners who argued that the $5 million rock wall they built with their own money provides adequate storm protection.

The state disagrees. Bob Martin, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, said Ford’s ruling is a strong vindication of the state’s authority to protect people and property there.

“Our commitment to restoring and making the Jersey shore more resilient for the future has and will remain steadfast. Now, it is time to move ahead on that pledge,” Martin said.

A lawyer for the homeowners said they are still deciding whether to appeal.

“We are disappointed with the ruling, especially in light of the court’s finding that the oceanfront owners had made a compelling argument that the government’s project is superfluous due to the pre-existing storm protection provided by the privately owned and maintained revetment system that has been in place for decades,” said attorney Anthony DellaPelle.

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