Margate considers beach protection steps
With Longport finally signing on to the state's Shore Protection Program, the only shore community in Atlantic County not getting federal funding for beach and dune protection is Margate - but that also may change.
The Margate Board of Commissioners recently approved a resolution authorizing officials to "investigate and determine the feasibility" of joining the project, including looking into what easements would be necessary and getting more information on dune protection. But commissioners are not ready to say the city is definitely going to sign on, and one is outright opposed.
Both Margate and Longport did not join in the initial Army Corps of Engineers dune project in the early 2000s, which replenished beaches and constructed dunes in Ventnor and Atlantic City.
Longport Mayor Nick Russo signed onto the Shore Protection Program this month, citing the damage from Hurricane Sandy and the huge amounts of sand left in the streets in places where there were no dunes. Russo had estimated the municipality's share of complete dune coverage at $800,000, based on what the Ventnor project had cost.
A municipality's share is about 9 percent of the total cost of any dune project, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers paying for 65 percent and the state Department of Environmental Protection about 26 percent.
Brenda Taube, Margate Commissioner of Public Works, said she had been opposed to dunes in Margate before Sandy, but now she favors them.
The resolution authorizes the city engineer and solicitor to look into the nine easements required from private landowners on the beach, as well as to initiate discussions with the DEP.
"We've authorized them to move forward, and I'm hoping they do it immediately," Taube said. "We've also had meetings with the DEP, and they're ready, willing and able to come down and talk to anybody who has questions about it."
Margate Solicitor Scott Abbott, who has been speaking with DEP representatives this week, said he was involved in the easement process when he held a similar position in Ventnor during the beginning of that dune project.
"But the governing body is still a ways off from making a decision," Abbott said. "We have to look at property owners, drainage, access to the beach, a lot of issues. But it looks like the state of New Jersey is going to push us very hard."
Abbott said there was no firm timeline as to when the city had to make a decision, adding it is unclear when any dunes would start to be constructed.
Army Corps spokesman Steve Rochett said the Corps is awaiting guidance from Congress as to how much funding any towns participating in the program would receive.
Margate Mayor Mike Becker and Commissioner Maury Blumberg were more cautious as to what the resolution implied.
Becker said the resolution, "kept us in the mix as far as replenishment. ... At this point, we're just gathering information and looking at it. As we move forward, we'll have lots of public input and public meetings. It's not quite as easy as you'd think."
Blumberg also said the main reason for the resolution was for Margate to remain eligible for federal funding.
"All the details for what a dune project would entail are not definite," Blumberg said. "We have to go very, very slow before we commit to anything."
Personally, he said, "I am not in favor of dunes being built in Margate. ... I don't want to see a change. Our beaches have remained the same for 50 years. We haven't seen any significant decrease in the amount of beach we have. I don't want to change the entire complexion of the beach. And the things that would come with dunes - outflow pipes, maintenance - have a lot of negatives as I see it."
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