After years of resisting dunes, Longport has announced it will enter the state’s Shore Protection Program and seek federal funding for a project to protect its residents from future storms.

The borough suffered about $10 million in damage to public property from Hurricane Sandy and was a highlight of Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno’s tour of local destruction in November.

“This past year has shown us (that) we have to be proactive. We can’t wait until there’s another damaging storm,” Mayor Nicholas Russo said.

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Historically, business and property owners across the Jersey Shore have resisted dunes, because they inhibited ocean views and sometimes encroached on private property. But the dunes proved their worth during the October hurricane, as resorts with larger dunes typically sustained less damage than their neighbors.

Russo said he saw this phenomenon in his own borough. A short segment of dune stretching from 32nd to 36th avenues helped protect the areas behind it, he said.

“It kept sand off those four blocks of Atlantic Avenue while the rest of Longport had hundreds of tons of sand displaced,” he said.

Longport Engineer Dick Carter said those dunes were built up naturally with funding dispersed through the state Department of Environmental Protection, but for various reasons, the municipality didn’t join Atlantic City and Ventnor in pursuing a larger project.

“Aside from the funding and how much money legislators can allocate to these projects, the second (factor) is whether local governments feel the need,” he said. “Clearly, after Hurricane Sandy, the value of shorefront protection and, more specifically, of engineered dunes came out as a big positive.”

Margate, another municipality that has resisted dunes, is still considering whether to participate in the federal program, Mayor Mike Becker said.

“I would expect in the short-term for nothing to happen,” he said, although local officials have discussed the possibility with the state.

Russo said initial estimates put the cost of a boroughwide dune at about $800,000, based on a similar project in Ventnor.

“This is a small price to pay to protect an area surrounded by water on three sides,” he said.

If the borough is able to secure government funding, he said, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would pay for 65 percent of the costs. The state would pay about 26 percent, and the city would pay about 9 percent.

Carter said preliminary drawings for dunes across the entirity of Absecon Island, including Longport, were created in 2000. If funding is secured, he said, new surveys would have to be conducted to calculate the amount of sand needed. Those calculations would then be applied to the existing beach templates in a final plan by the Army Corps, he said.

Although replenishment projects are scheduled elsewhere on Absecon Island, Carter said, he doesn’t anticipate any construction taking place in Longport before this summer.

Russo said the next step is to contact the borough’s congressional delegation and for its solicitor to seek seven easements from private property owners.

“I have a fiduciary duty to protect the infrastructure, life and personal, as well as public property,” he said. “I don’t think we have a choice here.”

Staff writer Steven Lemongello contributed to this report.

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