New Jersey will soon go after more oceanfront property owners if they refuse to sign easements that would allow for the construction of protective sand dunes to hold back storm surges, a state official warned.
N.J. Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin says the state will file dozens of court motions to seize beachfront land strips within the next 30 to 45 days, including land in Mantoloking and Brick Township, if property owners do not comply.
In Mantoloking, with 128 oceanfront homes, officials have finished surveys and appraisals for the properties of the last 10 holdouts that have refused to allow the government to build sand dunes on a portion of their land.
Statewide, 239 easements remain outstanding.
In June, the state filed the first condemnation actions against beachfront property owners in Ship Bottom and Ocean City that have refused to sign easements to allow the federal government to build engineered beach and dune projects.
Last week, the state filed eminent domain claims against 87 publicly owned beachfront parcels in Margate, where local officials and some of its residents oppose the construction of dune system.
The town officials have maintained wooden bulkheads are sufficient to protect against ocean flooding, and that most of the damage from Superstorm Sandy in 2012 came from the bay on the other side of town.
Work on numerous coastal protection projects is underway along a significant portion of the shore, including Long Beach Island.
State officials say they will continue fighting to obtain the easements necessary to protect the public.
“We appreciate that many property owners – clearly mindful of the destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy – have unselfishly donated easements for the greater good rather than engage the state in protracted litigation,” Acting N.J. Attorney General John J. Hoffman said in July.
“But to those who continue to hold out, our message is that we remain committed to acquiring these easements as expeditiously as possible, and – consistent with a landmark Supreme Court decision issued in 2013 – without paying windfalls at the public’s expense.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.