The Jersey Shore Partnership congratulates Suzanne Walters, Mayor of Stone Harbor and Partnership Board member on her election as the new President of the League of Municipalities at the League’s annual convention in Atlantic City this week. Partnership board member Avalon Mayor Marty Pagliughi accepted the League of Municipalities Innovation Award on behalf of the borough at the Mayors Luncheon. Sue Howard, Monmouth Beach Mayor and Partnership Board member, served on a panel that focused on flooding issue and remediation strategies.
Thousands of municipal officials poured into Atlantic City for the three-day convention billed as Navigating Recovery & Renewal. State representatives speaking at the conference, acknowledged that full recovery is a long way off. Martin, joined by state Department of Transportation Commissioner James Simpson, state Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable, and state Board of Public Utilities Commissioner Mary-Anna Holden outlined major initiatives that they are pushing forward, including buyouts, homeowner assistance programs, shore protection systems, road reconstruction and a new microgrid to power transit if the larger power system fails.
Martin said the state is targeting homes that shouldn’t have been built in certain tidal areas of the state. So far the state has made 150 offers to homeowners in Sayreville and South River. He said the state hopes to close on 500 homes by May 1.
Simpson said the state experienced a “transportation Armageddon after Sandy” because of power failures that left residents stranded. With the installation of a microgrid, Simpson said the transit system could be restored relatively quickly. The U.S. Department of Energy is funding a study on the grid.
For homeowners, Constable outlined the housing assistance programs that the state has managed with federal Sandy aid. So far, about a third of the money dedicated to the programs has been obligated. Constable noted that the state only received the money for the initiatives, funded through Community Development Block Grants, in the spring. Constable said the state has doled out money from some housing programs, with less federal red tape, more quickly than others.
The Supreme Court rejected the Lower Court’s decision to award Harvey Cedar homeowner $350,000 as compensation for loss of land and ocean view as a result of construction of dunes on their beachfront property. The Supreme Court argued that the benefits of dunes in protecting property must be considered in determining just compensation and sent the case back to the lower court. The homeowner settled the case with the state for $1.00 and attorney fees.
The Harvey Cedar settlement is an important step for the state’s beach replenishment program. Beachfront homeowners have been reluctant to grant easements waiting for the outcome of the Harvey Cedars case. Towns have been forced to delay moving forward with beach replenishment projects that require dunes because of lack of easements. Now it is clear that dunes have a value for property owners in protecting their homes and those behind them from more serious devastation from storms.
While the settlement precluded a court case under the new ruling, it is anticipated that easements will be less contentious to obtain so that the Army Corps of Engineers can complete replenishment projects as planned. The Jersey Shore Partnership argued before the Supreme Court that dunes provide a benefit to beachfront homeowners and are very pleased with the settlement that will positively impact our ability in restoring our beaches devastated by sandy.
Sandy sent a strong message: We must build a more resilient coastline that is able to mitigate anticipated future Sandy-like storms. We learned that loss of property was minimized in areas that had wide sandy beaches and the addition of a dune system. Beach replenishment projects led by the Army Corps of Engineers have restored eroded New Jersey beaches for the last two decades. Since Sandy, the Corps of Engineers working with local municipalities, has been replenishing beaches all along the coast, a process that will continue through the fall and winter months. We are monitoring current Corps projects and, at the same time, focusing on collaborative partnerships that will address regional solutions and opportunities for building a more resilient coastline. See Beach replenishment schedule.