New Jersey denies bulkhead for North Wildwood beach with wrecked sand dunes

New Jersey is refusing to allow a shore town whose sand dunes have washed away in places to build a bulkhead to protect itself, ruling that no one is in imminent danger.

The state Department of Environmental Protection told North Wildwood on Wednesday it will not give permission to the city to build a steel bulkhead on a section of beach where the dunes have been completely obliterated by storms.

That prompted Mayor Patrick Rosenello to say Thursday the city will move in appellate court for permission to build the barrier, which the state says will likely only worsen erosion from the force of waves bashing against it and scouring away any sand in front of it.

“Obviously we are very disappointed in the DEP’s continued lack of concern regarding shore protection in North Wildwood,” he said. “The department has failed to do its job and now they are trying to thwart our efforts to protect ourselves. Frankly, it is unconscionable.”

In a letter from the DEP received by North Wildwood on Wednesday, the agency said it visited the site and determined there is no imminent risk to life or property near the dune breach. It said a public walkway and a stormwater management system are between 100 and 160 feet from the eastern edge of the dunes, and that the nearest private homes are 200 feet from it.

“A bulkhead, if it were to experience direct wave attack in this location, is likely to increase erosion to the beach and dune system,” Colleen Keller, assistant director of the DEP’s division of land resource protection, wrote. Without careful collaboration with the state including the use of other shore protection methods, “a bulkhead could exacerbate, rather than alleviate conditions during future storms.”

It was the latest in a years-long battle between the city and the state over how to protect North Wildwood, one of the most erosion-prone spots in New Jersey’s 127-mile (204-kilometer) shoreline.

  • February 2, 2024
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