NJ announces emergency dune repairs in shore town penalized for doing them itself

A long-running sandstorm at the Jersey Shore could soon come to an end as New Jersey will carry out an emergency beach replenishment project at one of the state’s most badly eroded beaches.

North Wildwood and the state have been fighting in court for years over measures the town has taken on its own to try to hold off the encroaching seas while waiting — in vain — for the same sort of replenishment projects that virtually the entire rest of the Jersey Shore has received.

It could still be another two years before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection begin pumping sand onto North Wildwood’s critically eroded shores. In January, parts of the dunes reached only to the ankles of Mayor Patrick Rosenello.


But the mayor released a joint statement from the city and Gov. Phil Murphy late Thursday night saying both sides have agreed to an emergency project to pump sand ashore in the interim, to give North Wildwood protection from storm surges and flooding.

“The erosion in North Wildwood is shocking,” Murphy said Friday. “We could not let that stand. This is something that has been out there as an unresolved matter far too long.”

Rosenello — a Republican who put up signs last summer at the entrance to North Wildwood beaches with Murphy’s photo on them, telling residents the Democratic governor was the one to blame for there being so little sand on the beach — on Friday credited Murphy’s leadership in resolving the impasse. He also cited advocacy from elected officials from both parties, including former Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Democrat, and Republican Sen. Michael Testa in helping to broker a deal.

Patrick Rosenello

Mayor Patrick Rosenello stands next to a destroyed section of sand dune in North Wildwood N.J. on Jan. 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

“This is a great thing for North Wildwood and a good thing for the entire Jersey Shore,” Rosenello said.

The work will be carried out by the state Department of Transportation, but cost estimates were not available Friday. Rosenello said he expects the city will be required to contribute toward the cost.

The agreement could end more than a decade of legal and political wrangling over erosion in North Wildwood, a popular vacation spot for Philadelphians.

New Jersey has fined the town $12 million for unauthorized beach repairs that it says could worsen erosion, while the city is suing to recoup the $30 million it has spent trucking sand to the site for over a decade in the absence of a replenishment program.

Rosenello said he hopes the agreement could lead to both sides dismissing their voluminous legal actions against each other. But he added that more work needs to be done before that can happen. Murphy would not comment on the possibility of ending the litigation.

North Wildwood has asked the state for emergency permission to build a steel bulkhead along the most heavily eroded section of its beachfront — something previously done in two other spots.

But the state Department of Environmental Protection has tended to oppose bulkheads as a long-term solution, noting that the hard structures often encourage sand scouring against them that can accelerate and worsen erosion.

The agency prefers the sort of beach replenishment projects carried out for decades by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, where massive amounts of sand are pumped from offshore onto eroded beaches, widening them and creating sand dunes to protect the property behind them.

Virtually the entire 127-mile New Jersey coastline has received such projects. But in North Wildwood, legal approvals and property easements from private landowners have thus far prevented one from happening.

That is the type of project that will get underway in the next few weeks, albeit a temporary one. It could be completed by July 4, Rosenello said.


“Hopefully by the July 4 holiday, North Wildwood will have big, healthy beaches, and lots of happy beachgoers,” he said.

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