NORTH WILDWOOD, NJ (AP) — A beach town that defies New Jersey’s order not to shore up its eroding sand dunes is suing the state for $21 million.
That’s what North Wildwood says it has spent over the past decade trucking sand in an ultimately futile effort to hold back the waves.
North Wildwood is being sued by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for defying a state order not to perform emergency dune repairs following multiple storms last fall.
The city filed its response to that lawsuit Wednesday as it asked a judge to order the state to pay North Wildwood $21 million and allow the city to immediately build a partition along a section of the beach where the city says 75% of the dune was washed away.
“We are now at the point where a moderate storm or even a few smaller storms will breach” the dunes, North Wildwood project engineer James Verna said in the lawsuit. “There are only a few meters of dune protection left between the ocean and critical infrastructure in North Wildwood. Simply put, what little beach and dune system remains… will be unable to withstand the impending northeast and winter storm seasons.”
The DEP declined to comment on the lawsuit Thursday. But in past correspondence with North Wildwood, the agency said no emergency conditions exist and warns that the type of work the city is proposing could actually make erosion worse.
Mayor Patrick Rosenello said the city’s counterclaim is “a damning condemnation of the incredible lack of professionalism and scientific integrity at the NJDEP.” We are facing a real emergency that has the potential to endanger public safety and damage public and private property.
He blamed data collection the state relies on, which he says was carried out by an unauthorized person using “hobbyist equipment” that is no more accurate than a phone app.
The dispute involves damage to some beaches in North Wildwood when the remnants of Hurricane Ian passed through in October, chewing up huge chunks of protective sand dunes.
The agency denied a request from the city to perform emergency work to shore up the dunes, but the city did it anyway, prompting a December lawsuit from the state.
While most of the 127-mile (204-kilometer) stretch of the Jersey Shore got replenished beaches in the years after Storm Sandy hit in 2012, North Wildwood did not, said Rosenello. The town is part of a proposed multi-city federal and state beach recreation project also involving Wildwood, Wildwood Crest and Lower Township.
But many legal and real estate agreements need to be signed before that can happen, and that project likely won’t be able to start until at least the fall of 2024, the state estimated in August.
Meanwhile, North Wildwood has spent millions of dollars each year trucking tons of sand from Wildwood, home to some of New Jersey’s widest beaches. The most recent bill was for $3.8 million, the mayor said.
The state also noted that North Wildwood continues to flout a 2020 order to restore 12 acres (5 hectares) of mature, vegetated dunes that were cleared for another unauthorized seawall project.
The parties will be in court on January 17 to present their preliminary arguments to a judge. In the meantime, North Wildwood has offered a site visit by all parties, including Superior Court Judge Michael Blee, before that date.
Source: All Post Times