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Efforts continue to double NJ’s Shore Protection Fund

The Jersey Coast survived another hurricane season without any major damage, but beach erosion remains a concern in the wake of Super storm Sandy reshaping the landscape. The Jersey Shore Partnership has been lobbying in Trenton, urging lawmakers to double the state’s Shore Protection Fund to $50 million. 

The Statehouse
Governor’s Office, Tim Larsen

Margo Walsh, the group’s Executive Director, discussed the issue on “Townsquare Tonight” on News Talk WOBM-AM 1160 & 1310 with host Tom Mongelli.

Walsh explained the Shore Protection fund hasn’t increased since 1998 and that the need is greater now more than ever in the aftermath of Sandy.

“We knew from Sandy, which we knew from other storms, but more so from Sandy, that when we have a huge storm impacting our beaches, it also impacts the inlets, and the waterways, and the rivers and the bay side areas. You can’t anymore just take beach replenishment and not somehow incorporate addressing the flooding issues that are a result of these storm surges that stream across our beaches,” said Walsh.

Walsh pointed out another concern with the entire coast set to undergo a federal restoration project. Beach protection projects were done in communities as the need arose at different periods or several years a part.

“With the federal funding that we got for Sandy reparations, all our cost will be restored at basically the same time. So, erosion issues will arise almost simultaneously over large pieces of beach, which will be very, very costly,” Walsh said.

Walsh said that has prompted better planning for the future and understanding the costs involved.

“We had beaches along the Jersey Coast which never either wanted or needed replenishment, now since all the beaches will have been awarded replenishment dollars from the Federal Government, they too will participate in beach replenishment. There too, because there are more beaches to tend to and they will all in most cases, need replenishment simultaneously, the funding mechanism that we’ve used over the years will not be adequate to meet the demand, neither has the funding for Shore Protection kept pace with inflation. So, we have gone now from 1998 to going into 2016 with no provision for the cost of inflation for paying for the work that has to be done on our beaches,” said Walsh.

The Army Corps of Engineers project to expand the entire 137-mile Jersey Coast remains stalled due to easement issues and pending litigation by some waterfront property holdouts who object to giving up a portion of their property to the state for the protective dunes to be built and maintained.

The Shore Protection fund was established in 1992 as a result of the Jersey Shore Partnership’s advocacy efforts to get a dedicated source of funding for beach protection in the aftermath of two storms that ravaged beach communities who were unable to meet the cost of restoring their beaches, according to Walsh.

The New Jersey state legislature agreed to create a dedicated fund that would come from the Realty Transfer Tax, a tax that property owners pay to the county and to the state for selling their properties, which continued as a dedicated fund, explained Walsh.

“It started at $15 million, and in 1998 was brought up to $25 million which is where it’s standing today. The fund is administered by the Department of Coastal Engineering in the Department of Environmental Protection,” said Walsh.

According to Walsh, Florida and New Jersey are the only two states in the country that have this dedicated fund, and that the benefit of it is that it attracts a cost-sharing partnership with the Federal Government that provides 65 percent of the funding to the state’s 35 percent.

“The state’s 35 percent is shared; 75 percent with the state and the remaining 25 percent is paid for through the muncipal/county who are benefiting from the shore protection projects,” said Walsh.

The Jersey Shore Partnership works very closely with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection on coast protection issues.

“They advised us that doubling it {The Shore Protection Fun} would be a great assist, so we started our campaign, actually in March, 2014, to double the amount of funding,” said Walsh.

For more information about the advocacy group, visit jerseyshorepartnership.com.

 

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