U.S. senators tour Sandy-damaged Long Beach Island
LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP— A group of U.S. senators toured the township Monday afternoon, surveying Hurricane Sandy damage and stressing the need to act swiftly in approving President Barack Obama’s request to Congress for $60.4 billion in federal aid for New Jersey and other states struck by the storm.
Although the tour was delayed due to bad weather and a helicopter tour of the shore was canceled, just after 2 p.m., a Long Beach Township police escort took the caravan of senators and representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the hardest hit section of the island in Holgate.
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., traveled to Long Beach Island with his democratic colleagues, U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Jon Tester of Montana. The group first saw the protection that a beach replenishment project in the Brant Beach section of the township provided during the storm.
The group of officials stood in the rain at the 49th Street beach entrance that featured a healthy and high dune despite the storm that just rolled through in October, knocking homes off foundations and filling houses with water.
The $16.7 million project was completed in June after 1.2 million cubic yards of sand was pumped onto beaches between 31st and 57th streets.
As the caravan moved south on Long Beach Boulevard, the curbs and sidewalks were still stacked with debris from Sandy’s wrath.
In the Holgate section, the caravan found an oceanfront landscape with a much grimmer portrait. During the storm, the water rushed under oceanfront homes, gutting the bottoms and pushing homes off their foundations across the street.
The township has been battling oceanfront homeowners for several years to secure signed easements in order to go onto their property and complete beachfill work.
After seeing the damage in Holgate, Menendez had something to say to the homeowners who haven’t signed their easements yet.
“Number one, I hope they learned their lesson, and number two, they need to realize that without an easement there is no protection,” Menendez said.
Long Beach Township Mayor Joseph Mancini accompanied the senators on their tour. Since the storm hit, he has called on oceanfront homeowners to sign off on their easements so beachfill projects can be completed in vulnerable areas such as the Holgate section.
On Monday afternoon while in Holgate, Menendez called Obama’s request from Congress for $60.4 billion in federal aid for Sandy-struck states robust and well-tailored.
Not only did the region experience the perfect, physical storm, but legislators will be working to get the funding approved before Congress’ session ends Dec. 31 and discussions of a fiscal cliff abound, Menendez said.
“By Memorial Day, things need to happen here,” Stabenow told the crowd after speaking about the need for assistance to arrive on Long Beach Island so businesses and homeowners can start rebuilding.
Tester told the crowd of media and officials assembled Monday that the photos in the news do not compare to seeing the damage firsthand.
Congress must act swiftly to get New Jersey the help it needs, Tester said.
“Time is of the essence to get this money. We cannot dillydally,” he said.