An Ocean County mayor has revealed, for the first time, that federal funding for a planned beach replenishment project could be in jeopardy due to the refusal of some property owners to sign easements.
By a state-imposed deadline of Feb. 12, Brick Mayor John Ducey said a beach homeowners association and one resident in his town failed to sign easements, with 189 remaining up and down the county’s northern barrier island. The remaining holdouts will face condemnation proceedings to take slivers of privately owned sand that needs to be accessed so dunes can be built island-wide, but having missed the deadline, the project will likely be pushed back until 2017.
What’s worse, Ducey said, is that federal funding for the project may be lost to another area where the project is “shovel-ready.”
Since the easements were not obtained by the deadline, the state Department of Environmental Protection is readying for a protracted legal battle with holdouts and may even have to forfeit the $158 million in federal funding that was to be used for the project.
“Fire Island, [N.Y.] is shovel-ready,” Ducey said Tuesday night. “Our money may be spent up in New York. Whether it gets funded again is an unknown. That was the risk we were dealing with.”
Ducey excoriated a beach association covering a portion of the township’s barrier island section – the Deauville Beach association – for failing to sign the easements.
The association, “ironically, in the southernmost part of town where the wall is exposed the most,” did not sign, said Ducey, adding that the threat of losing the project altogether and putting homes at risk of a dune breach “apparently didn’t sway anybody.”
In addition to Brick Township, Toms River has 18 private association easements outstanding. For the length of the project, from Point Pleasant Beach to South Seaside Park, 189 property owners have refused to sign, most notably the owners of Jenkinson’s in Point Pleasant Beach and nearly all of Bay Head’s oceanfront homeowners. Bay Head’s municipal government has not cooperated with the state in urging its residents to sign. Meanwhile, Toms River, Lavallette and Brick Township officials have repeatedly pleaded for residents to grant the easements. Brick’s beachfront is marked with a 20 foot drop in some areas where a sea wall – which was supposed to be buried under the dunes – is exposed, preventing beach access. Toms River officials have spent more than $2 million since the fall on sand deliveries to build temporary berms to keep the ocean from breaching in the Ortley Beach section.
Editor’s note: This story has been edited to reflect that the Normandy Beach Improvement Association did, in fact, sign an easement. According to Mayor John Ducey: “Normandy Beach signed the easement in a timely fashion. The state received it and neglected to tell us or to give it to us to sign. The state is calling the association to apologize.”