Is expensive NJ beach replenishment only helping the ultra-rich?
Over the coming months, the Army Corps of Engineers will be working on several multi-million dollar beach replenishment projects in New Jersey, adding sand to beaches damaged by the remnants of Hurricane Ian and other recent nor’easters and strong storms.
Most communities up and down the Jersey Shore support these plans but one group believes this is a monumental and dangerous waste of time, energy and money.
Ross Kushner, coordinator for the New Jersey Coastal Alliance, said over the past 30 years the Army Corps has put 130 million cubic yards of sand on the New Jersey coastline.
He pointed out that building up the beach protects homes that are right up next to the ocean, not the structures behind them, because flooding usually comes from the bay side during a big storm.
“Really, what you have is you’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars to protect what are really summer homes of the ultra-rich.”
Is beach replenishment working?
He said the result has been almost the complete destruction of coastal marine life.
“The sandbars are gone, the waves roll in unbroken, the beach goes from dry beach to over-your-head water in about two steps. It’s a dangerous place for children, it’s a dangerous place for weak swimmers," he said.
He said because the wave pattern of the ocean has been altered, it makes beach erosion worse.
Kushner said during beach replenishment projects, 6 to 10 feet of sand is added to where the edge of the beach is now.
“They don’t try to create a gradual shoreline, they don’t rebuild the sand bars where they should be so what you end up with is dry sand, deep drop-off, deep water.”
He noted once beach replenishment is completed, over time the beach is supposed to return to a more natural profile.
“But in between those two things happening, which can take years and years, you end up with very unnatural and dangerous conditions.”
He said the Army Corps is required to recreate the beach profile as it was, but “the only problem is the DEP doesn’t enforce those rules so they get to do whatever they want.”
'Where does it stop?'
Kushner estimated more than $1.5 billion has been spent on beach replenishment in the Garden State but it will cost more/
“it has to be repeated over and over and over endlessly. Originally they were saying we’ll redo it every five to six years; now they’re talking about some areas they’ll do it every three years. I mean, where does it stop?”
Who gets the benefit?
He said if you own a multi-million house that’s right on the beach, from your perspective the beach replenishment projects are very successful.
“If you’re the average beachgoer or surfer or fisherman, they’re absolutely a failure because they destroy marine life, they create dangerous conditions in the surf," he said.
He suggested one option would be to start buying out these big houses and convert the land to a public area, similar to the state’s Blue Acres program that buys out homes in flood-prone inland areas.