Toms River officials talk, homeowners shout over dune restoration snags
While busloads of Toms River homeowners bused to the Statehouse in Trenton to vent their frustration over the stalled post-Sandy beach restoration project, township elected officials disclosed the results of new discussions with the Army Corps of Engineers and state environmental regulators.
Leaders of the Ortley Beach Voters and Taxpayers Association (OBVTA) organized the protest over what they characterize as foot-dragging in protecting the acknowledged vortex of the Superstorm's wrath, and the labyrinthine process attached to Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) grants.
Toms River Mayor Thomas Kelaher, members of the Township Council and shore Representative Tom MacArthur (R-3) took part in the discussions aimed at breaking the logjams.
The Mayor acknowledged that the Army Corps project is fully funded and headed for contractor bidding
"The meeting was very positive in that all parties had the opportunity to discuss the challenges that lie ahead," Kelaher said in a prepared statement.
Ortley and the township's North Beach enclaves stand in the corridor that the Corps has targeted in its project of 22-foot-high dunes from Manasquan Inlet to Barnegat Inlet.
In Toms River, where the number of damaged homes and businesses on the northern barrier island and the mainland is more than 10,500 by township estimates, work was originally scheduled to have started by Spring 2015.
One of the ongoing snags has been the need imposed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for easement agreements by affected homeowners, to allow ongoing access for future dune reinforcement.
There are still some holdouts, in Toms River and in neighboring communities, for reasons that stretch from personal rights to environment to cash compensation. Towns such as Mantoloking and Bay Head, have circumvented the DEP and the Corps entirely and built their own protections.
"The delay in getting the dune and beach replenishment has been extremely disappointing," Township Council President Jeffrey J. Carr said in a prepared statement. "However, it was very reassuring to hear directly from the Army Corps of Engineers and the NJDEP that the funding for the project is stable and that the project will definitely be completed."
Meanwhile, as the June 1 start of Atlantic hurricane season bears down on the shore, homeowners in Ortley and every beachfront zone left vulnerable since October 2012 aren't nearly as interested in when it will be completed, as in when it will start.