MARGATE — A dune and beachfill project could potentially put the Margate Fishing Pier out of business, said club members, who met Thursday with a state official to negotiate the details of the project.
Bob Pludo, the club’s membership committee chairman and the man charged with negotiating the project with the state and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said the meeting with Department of Environmental Protection representative Dave Rosenblatt went “very well.”
“They don’t quite know how this thing is going to go, but they’re willing to try to work something out so we won’t get clobbered,” Pludo said. “They’re willing to think outside the box.”
The fishing pier, a nonprofit, membership-sustained club owned by The Anglers Club of Absecon Island, has faced hard times since Hurricane Sandy hit in October 2012. The storm caused about $100,000 in damage that had to be fully paid for by the club, with no insurance or assistance from governmental agencies.
The storm also caused a surplus of sand to collect under and around the pier, making the water too shallow for ideal fishing conditions. The state-sponsored storm protection project would add even more sand to the beach and could further cripple the pier.
“The sad thing is, people won’t join a fishing club if there’s no good fishing. We’re here for the pleasure of the sport, and this could take that away, which would be a real shame,” Pludo said.
The dune and beachfill project, formally called the Absecon Island Storm Protection Project, is expected to start in Margate no earlier than the end of this summer. It will be completed by the Army Corps at no initial cost to Margate’s taxpayers. But a majority of Margate’s voters opposed the project in a nonbinding November vote. Among the opponents are club members at the fishing pier, which owns one of the easements needed for the project to begin.
The club has yet to hand it over, despite an executive order last year from Gov. Chris Christie directing the Attorney General’s Office to coordinate legal action to acquire such easements all along the state’s shoreline.
The City Commission recently wrote a letter to the DEP requesting the state address the historic pier before moving forward with the project.
“We will work with the state side by side toward solutions, but at the same time we must represent the interests and concerns of our citizenry,” the letter stated.
Pludo said he contacted DEP Project Manager Bill Dixon a few weeks ago and asked him to alter the project to work around the pier, but his request was denied.
“He said, ‘No, there will be dunes from one end of Margate to the other,’” Pludo repeated. “I actually asked him to take some of the sand away for us.”
He then requested the meeting with a DEP official to try to come to a compromise on the project, which resulted in Thursday’s meeting with Rosenblatt and a few club members at the pier.
Pludo said after the meeting with Rosenblatt that he is hopeful they will come to a fair deal.
“I don’t know how this thing is going to work out, but I would like to see if there’s an alternative that would allow them to do the dunes but also allow us to have enough water,” he said. “I want to save our houses for future storms, too.”
The Margate Fishing Pier was incorporated as a club in 1923 and has about 160 members, each paying $225 in annual dues to support its maintenance. It’s one of a few ocean fishing piers in South Jersey, and one of the very few in the state to be privately owned and allow daily visitors.
Margate’s fishing pier isn’t the first in South Jersey to struggle with having too much sand.
A few years ago, Wildwood Crest’s fishing pier was forced to forfeit itself to the elements and is now a landlocked observation pier owned by the borough where people can go to watch the sunset but not fish.
“We extended it, and the sand just came and reclaimed it again,” said Wildwood Crest City Commissioner Joyce Gould, who had voted against the pier extension at the time. “We can keep extending it farther and farther and eventually you’d be able to walk across the pier to England before you’d win the battle.”
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