NJ Fines North Wildwood $12 Million
The ongoing battle between North Wildwood, a shore town in New Jersey, and the state’s environmental officials has intensified.
On Thursday, the state Department of Environmental Protection announced that it had imposed a fine of over $12 million on North Wildwood for its past construction activities along its beachfront, including the destruction of vegetated sand dunes and wetlands, and the unauthorized construction of a bulkhead and beachfront amenities like showers and walkways.
The penalty comes amid a continuing dispute between the city and the Department of Environmental Protection over emergency repairs made by North Wildwood to its beachfront following a major storm in October, against the state’s advice. The state claims that North Wildwood’s actions have damaged the beachfront and critical wildlife habitats and coastal ecosystems.
North Wildwood, however, is fighting back, suing the state for $21 million. The city claims that it had to spend this amount to protect the city and its residents from serious storms over the last decade. Mayor Patrick Rosenello says that the fines are “a retaliatory move” after the city filed a lawsuit against the Department of Environmental Protection. He claims that the state created the issue by not doing its job and, when the city tried to protect itself, it retaliated against it.
One of the violations that resulted in the fine involved work that North Wildwood did a few years ago to a section of beachfront that had become severely eroded.
The state claimed that the work destroyed eight acres of vegetated dunes, including 6.7 acres of critical wildlife habitat, and 1.1 acres of freshwater wetlands. North Wildwood built a vinyl and steel bulkhead for around 10 blocks without state approval, arguing that it had to act urgently to protect lives and property.
The dispute centers on the absence of a beach replenishment program that almost the entire rest of the Jersey Shore has received over the past decade. State officials have said that the project could not proceed without necessary approvals from all four beachfront towns that it would affect:
North Wildwood and Wildwood Crest, which had previously signed, and Wildwood and Lower Township.
Rosenello said that those two towns approved participation in the project on Wednesday, although the state has not yet announced their agreement. The mayor believes that the last two towns’ approval should pave the way for the comprehensive beach widening and dune construction or restoration project that North Wildwood has been seeking for years.
The Department of Environmental Protection and North Wildwood are due to have a trial in November to address their recent dispute, unless it can be resolved amicably beforehand.
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