New Jersey’s plan to fortify its ocean front still faces some hurdles

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 Lucy the Elephant is a tourist attraction in Margate, N.J., a town that is opposing a plan for protective dunes (AP Photo/Brian Branch-Price)

Lucy the Elephant is a tourist attraction in Margate, N.J., a town that is opposing a plan for protective dunes (AP Photo/Brian Branch-Price)

Margate, N.J. won it’s first round in the courts in its effort to stop the state from building protective sand dunes along the shoreline. A federal judge in Trenton sided with Margate’s assertion that the state Department of Environmental Protection should not have used an administrative order to obtain easements giving government the right to carry out the work.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports the judge extended a temporary restraining order that bars the state from awarding a contract for the beach protection project until Dec. 17.

She urged the state to condemn Margate’s land in state court, but the state says any delay jeopardizes the entire project. Margate officials praised the ruling, saying they can prove the state’s “one size fits all” plan is arbitrary.

Margate’s legal fight is just one of many that federal and state officials will need to settle before it can complete dunes along New Jersey’s coast, which would help prevent flooding during future Nor’easters hurricanes. The opposition to the dunes, which are high enough to block your view of the ocean, most often come from ocean front homeowners who argue the dunes lower their home”s market value and therefore should be compensated for that.

NJ Spotlight, a content partner with NewsWorks, has been following this debate, which has taken on new importance following Superstorm Sandy in October 2012. During that storm dunes proved their effectiveness by creating a dam between huge ocean waves and the homes and businesses on the barrier islands.

I recently talked with reporter Scott Gurian to find out how the state’s overall progress has been in building more dunes. You can hear our full conversation in the podcast above. The homeowners who don’t sign easements are commonly called “holdouts.” By granting an easement, homeowners allows another party to cross or use their land. But not all of the delays in building dunes are due to the holdouts, according to Gurian. The Army Corps of Engineers says it’s not fair to simply blame the holdouts because there is a lot of preparation work it has to complete first.

As of November 2014, there were still 347 holdouts but that is down significantly from last fall when there were an estimated 2800 homeowners refusing to sign easements. But overall 80 percent of the easements needed are now signed.

If you would like a more in-depth version read Gurian’s Explainer story on NJ Spotlight.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report

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