Meeting in Toms River, New Jersey’s Senate and Assembly environment committees advanced legislation that would double the $25 million annual state allocation for the state’s Shore Protection Fund.
The fund helps counties and municipalities finance projects to protect the oceanfront from storm damage and erosion.
Margot Walsh, the executive director of the Jersey Shore Partnership, said the additional $25 million is needed.
“An increase in the Shore Protection Fund will protect the state’s 24-year investment in ensuring the future of our coastline and the economic benefits to all New Jersey taxpayers,” said Walsh.
Thomas Harrington, a coastal researcher at Stevens Institute of Technology, said the additional money would allow expansion of a successful program.
“We have been able to protect almost 50 percent of our developed coastline with federal shore protection projects, and, when we looked at the damage from Sandy, the 50 percent of the coast that was not protected by these type of projects suffered severe damage,” Harrington said.
John Weber with the Surfrider Foundation questioned what the state is getting for its money.
“I don’t think that we’re getting the protection that we should be getting. I feel like we should be looking at these beach-replenishment projects as something that buys us some time,” he said. “We can use that time to create a real plan to do coastal realignment and really think about what’s really going to protect us — and I am talking about pulling back from the coast here.”
Tony Pizzutillo testified on behalf of the commercial real estate Industry, which opposes dedicating more money from the realty transfer fee for beach replenishment.
“We believe that real estate transactions that go into the real estate transfer fund should be used for affordable housing and that those funds not be redirected into Shore protection,” he said.
Senate Environment Committee chairman Bob Smith said state budget concerns might make it difficult to get the full Legislature and the governor to approve the additional funding.