Lack of Easements Won’t Slow Army Corps [AUDIO]
With numerous federal beach replenishment projects underway, any remaining unsigned easements from beachfront homeowners will not deter the Army Corps of Engineers.
Already, four projects are underway along a 21-mile stretch in Monmouth County: a portion between Sea Bright and Monmouth Beach that has been completed, a project between Belmar and Manasquan which started in November and is expected to be completed by the end of April, one from Asbury Park to Avon which started in December and is expected to be finished by the middle of May, and one in Long Branch that began in November and is targeted for completion by the middle of May as well.
Projects in Keansburg, Port Monmouth, and Union Beach will also begin soon or are in the pipeline, while feasibility studies are being done in Leonardo, Highlands, and along the Shrewsbury River.
Many of the projects are completed largely or completely through federal funding and will restore the beaches to their original designs, according to Anthony Ciorra, post-Sandy recovery manager for the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District.
"In some areas those beaches, because of limited federal funding, had not been nourished from a decade to 15 years," Ciorra said.
Much of the concern has come from unsigned easements from beachfront property owners. Since Army Corps projects cannot be done if all easements haven't been signed, communities like Toms River have been fighting with homeowners over the releases.
In the past, Gov. Chris Christie said the state would go after homeowners, who he had referred to as "selfish." Municipal officials in Toms River have begun taking actions to secure the properties through eminent domain.
While municipalities struggle to collect all of the easements, Ciorra said the projects will continue as much as they can. He noted if need be, projects can be split up to accommodate areas where all easements have been signed.
"Because these are linear projects, in some cases we can break out the overall project into several contracts and build it in the areas where the easements are in place," Ciorra said, "while the state works on acquiring the remaining easements."
Ciorra expressed confidence the state would be able to collect the remaining easements and allow the Army Corps to finish rebuilding an uninterrupted, replenished coast line.
"The state has made it quite clear that they will condemn properties, if necessary, for these projects," Ciorra said, "because they are that important to the public."