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NJ Shore Towns Scramble to Rebuild Dunes After Sandy [SERIES]

Following the destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy almost one year ago, municipalities up and down the Jersey Shore are recovering, rebuilding and preparing for another possible storm. In part two of our five-part series: Are We Ready? We hear the answer right now is ‘no.’

Beach Dunes
Christopher Furlong, Getty Images

“We’re as prepared as we could possibly be. I don’t think anybody could tell us we have failed to do anything by way of preparation, but if there’s another storm like Sandy we’re still going to be vulnerable. And I don’t think anybody short of having somebody standing there with their hands up, and having the power to stop the storm is going to prevent it,” says Toms River Mayor Tom Kelaher.

He says around 30 percent of the beachfront remains vulnerable because, for varying reasons, the Army Corp or Engineers has not been allowed to come in and build up sand dunes and replenish the beaches.

“We’re as ready as we can be. I don’t think there’s anything that somebody could tell me that we should do that we haven’t done or are prepared to do, but it’s going to take years, there’s no question about it,” Kelaher said.

Kelaher says some homeowners have built up their own dunes, but what they don’t understand is that “the Army Corp of Engineers is going to come in and build the dunes a standard berm the length of the beaches and not only that, but replenish the beaches out about a half a football field – which in itself is a safety measure.”

“Private property owners might be able to push some sand up and make some dunes, but they’ll never have the wherewithal or the equipment or the ability to dredge sand and extend the beaches,” he explained.

He adds, as Mayor, his number one priority is the safety and welfare of your people.

“I am determined to live up to that obligation and their failure to do it jeopardizes not only the people in their own association but on the bayside or wherever more damage might be done,” Kelaher said.

Governor Christie says when Sandy hit, “the towns that had significant engineered dune systems suffered significantly less damage than the ones that had no dunes, so we know that these dunes systems now work. So really they’re the difference between catastrophic damage and little or no damage.”

“It’s unfortunate that you have to have these experiences to learn but only when you’re tested like this do you know what works and what doesn’t,” Christie said. “When these types of disasters hit you get real smart real quick.”

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