New Jersey Approves Emergency Dune Repair
The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has given the green light for emergency repairs to the town’s badly eroded beachfront. This decision allows North Wildwood to reshape three blocks of dunes and restore public access points to ensure their safe usability ahead of the approaching Memorial Day weekend. These blocks are located at 12th through 15th Street.
The lack of a beach replenishment this year, a privilege enjoyed by most other areas along the Jersey Shore, has left North Wildwood and its neighboring coastal communities vulnerable to serious erosion. The city has been grappling with finding immediate solutions to address the issue, including reinforcing dunes and constructing an additional steel sea wall to supplement an existing one.
However, the state has consistently denied permission for such measures, expressing concerns that they may exacerbate erosion due to the impact of waves carrying sand along solid barriers like sea walls. Instead, the DEP has advised the city to continue relying on the importation of sand from Wildwood.
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While this system of moving sand from Wildwood had worked in the past, this year it’s not feasible due to sections of the beach not being drivable due. This now left sections of the beach with 17-foot tall cliffs where the dunes were located, and a lack of a beach at high tide.
All of this had caused the North Wildwood Mayor, Patrick Rosenello, to submit an emergency application to try and fix the dune so that people can access the beach safely.
In a letter addressed to the city this week, the DEP acknowledged the urgent nature of the proposed repairs, justifying its decision to grant permission. Although this represents a victory for North Wildwood, the future of these repairs remains uncertain.
Rosenello, expressed his satisfaction with the DEP’s decision, stating that their approval aligned with the city’s longstanding requests.
However, he emphasized that even if all necessary approvals were granted immediately, the federal beach replenishment project in the Wildwoods would only commence 18 to 24 months later, meaning the city is unlikely to benefit from it before 2025.
Rosenello anticipated that sand transportation would finish next week, assuring that the repairs would be completed before the Memorial Day weekend.
Meanwhile, amidst the ongoing litigation between the city and the state, North Wildwood faces a $12 million lawsuit from the state regarding previous unapproved beach repairs. In response, the city has countersued the state to recoup the expenses incurred in trucking sand to restore the eroded beach.
Notably, various violation notices issued by the state remain active, including one pertaining to previous work undertaken by the city on a section of beachfront suffering severe erosion. The state claims that the work resulted in the destruction of 8 acres of vegetated dunes, including 6.7 acres of critical wildlife habitat and 1.1 acres of freshwater wetlands.
North Wildwood had previously constructed a vinyl and steel bulkhead spanning approximately 10 blocks without state authorization, citing the urgency to safeguard lives and property. This initiative is separate from the latest bulkhead proposal, which the city has agreed to postpone for now.
Mayor Rosenello confirmed that the city has resubmitted applications through regular channels to obtain permission for more extensive beach work, shifting away from the reliance on emergency approvals that have been sought since last autumn.