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New Jersey Fines a Rebellious Shore Town $12 Million for Illegal Beach Work

The tempest between New Jersey environmental inspectors and a stubborn seaside town that is constructing dune reinforcements without state approval is growing.

The state Department of Environmental Protection announced Thursday that it has fined North Wildwood over $12 million for past construction actions along its beachfront, including the destruction of vegetated sand dunes and wetlands, and the unauthorised construction of a bulkhead and beachfront amenities such as showers and walkways.

The last two shore towns required to sign on to a full-scale beach replenishment project for the area done so on Wednesday, and an announcement regarding when the beaches may be enlarged is anticipated soon.

The fines come at a time when the city and the Department of Environmental Protection are arguing in court over more recent emergency repairs North Wildwood made to its coastline after an October hurricane, despite a state warning not to do so.

North Wildwood is suing the state for $21 million, the amount it claims it spent over the past decade to protect the city and its inhabitants from severe storms.

Mayor Patrick Rosenello stated, “Obviously these fines were a retaliatory measure after we filed litigation against the DEP.” “They caused this problem by failing to perform their duties, and when we tried to defend ourselves, they retaliated against us.” It is again another indicator that this dispute must be decided before a judge and not through the administrative processes of the DEP.”

Citing ongoing lawsuits, the state declined to comment. But, it did reveal copies of three violation letters issued between January 11 and January 24 that assessed nearly $12 million in fines for different violations of state laws and regulations.

One of the most significant includes work performed by the city several years ago along a stretch of beachfront that, according to the city, has been severely degraded. According to the state, the construction destroyed 8 acres of vegetated dunes, including 6.7 acres of vital wildlife habitat, and 1.1 acres of freshwater wetlands.

North Wildwood constructed a 10-block vinyl and steel bulkhead without state clearance, citing an urgent need to safeguard lives and property.

Contrary to state law, it used the same reasoning in October to undertake emergency repairs to its dunes two blocks away from the earlier work. The state cautioned that the city’s actions — which were ultimately carried out — might further degrade the shoreline and harm or destroy vital wildlife habitat and coastal ecosystems.

At issue is the absence of a beach replenishment programme that nearly the rest of the Jersey Shore has received during the previous ten years.

State officials have stated that such a project could not proceed without the appropriate permissions from the four seaside municipalities that it would impact: North Wildwood, Wildwood Crest, Wildwood, and Lower Township.

Rosenello stated that these two municipalities approved participation in the project on Wednesday, but the state has not yet publicised their agreement.

The approval of the previous two municipalities, according to Rosenello, should pave the way for the full beach widening and dune construction or restoration project that North Wildwood has been seeking for years.

The Department of Environmental Protection and North Wildwood’s current dispute is due for trial in November, unless it can be settled amicably before then.

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Parvesh
Parvesh
Parvesh is the Content Writer for New Jersey Local News. Here at New Jersey Local News, she covers local news of New Jersey state. Moreover, Parvesh likes to dance and listen to music. She also finds time in her hectic schedule to relax and spend time with loved ones.
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