Mantoloking eyeing eminent domain to build dunes

 Superstorm Sandy swept some homes off their foundations in Mantoloking, N.J. (Phil Gregory/for NewsWorks)

Superstorm Sandy swept some homes off their foundations in Mantoloking, N.J. (Phil Gregory/for NewsWorks)

Mantoloking is one of the Jersey Shore towns that suffered the most devastation from Superstorm Sandy. Five of the 128 oceanfront property owners there are refusing to sign easements to allow protective dunes to be built on the beach, but the mayor is ready to play hardball, calling them out by name.

Chris Nelson is special counsel to the mayor and borough council. He doubts the decision to publicly identify the holdouts will convince them to sign the easements so Mantoloking can be part of a comprehensive beach replenishment project.

“We’ve spent at least a couple months, four to five months, giving people the facts about the Army Corps projects and all the benefits,” said Nelson. “So they have all the information, and we’ll need to move along and do what we need to do to make sure the Army project happens in Mantoloking.”

Nelson says the borough is working with the state to determine whether to pursue eminent domain proceedings against those property owners.

“We really don’t have any other choice,” said Nelson. “Route 35 runs through the center of Mantoloking, and it’s the artery to the Jersey Shore. If Route 35 closes down that means that construction stops in the towns south of us, and it means dollars don’t get spent at the boardwalk, the concession stands, the restaurants, and everything else.”

Nelson says dunes in Mantoloking would also prevent storm surges from pushing the ocean water into the bay and flooding neighboring towns.

He says one way or another officials will get the easements so the Army Corps of Engineers can move ahead with the project.

The Corps will not proceed with dunes projects until 100 percent of homeowners in a town are on board since building dunes with gaps can in some case exacerbate flood damage.

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