A plan to construct a dune across Five Mile Beach is designed to limit storm damage, but Wildwood Crest Mayor Carl Groon worries the dune itself will damage the town’s economy.
Groon said the dune could harm businesses and the tourism industry because the resort relies on the beach as its main attraction.
“That’s all my community has to see is the beach,” said Groon, who is joined in his opposition by Wildwood. The plan involves a back-passing operation that would haul sand to North Wildwood from the neighboring towns.
A public meeting on the $21.8 million project is set for Friday in North Wildwood’s City Hall.
North Wildwood Mayor Patrick Rosenello says he supports the plan because it means beach replenishment for the long-term, including periodic beach nourishment every four years.
Groon said neighboring Wildwood and North Wildwood at least have a Boardwalk that would allow visitors to still see the ocean if the dune is built.
“We don’t have that here,” Groon told representatives of the Army Corps and the state Department of Environmental Protection on Wednesday.
The meeting, held at Wildwood Crest Borough Hall, was one of several that officials across the island have had with the Army Corps, all leading up to Friday’s 2 p.m. meeting that residents and business owners can attend to learn about the plan, which is available online. Attendees will have a chance to express their opinions for or against the proposal.
On Wednesday, Groon asked about the possibility of lowering the dune height to 12 feet, in line with current dunes in the borough.
Christopher Constantino, an environmental services specialist with the DEP, and Brian Bogle, project manager from the Army Corps, said a change in height would not be supported by the DEP and would require additional time, possibly a year, to be evaluated.
“I don’t think funding is going to disappear,” Bogle said of the potential impact of making changes. “But I do think it will put you at the back of the line.”
Constantino added that the economic benefit is the protection of shore homes and businesses in the long run. He said studies are being done that will show how such projects affect property values. In places such as Long Beach Island, they have been found to help increase values, he said.
The Army Corps of Engineers’ plan would build a berm and a 16-foot-high dune from Hereford Inlet to Cape May Inlet to reduce potential ocean-related storm damages in the Wildwoods, with a dune-only option in Wildwood and Wildwood Crest.
The project is more than 10 years in the making.
“That’s the project we need to get into,” North Wildwood’s Rosenello said, noting that the Wildwoods are among the few shore communities not involved in regular federally supported beach replenishment projects.
Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. said Wednesday that he opposes the plan as is.
Troiano said the city could support lowering the dune height and not removing as much sand from the beach as the plan requires, but otherwise he would not endorse it.
“If (the plan) stays the way it is, we’re not interested,” Troiano said.
Wildwood’s large beach makes it possible to host many events on the strand, but those are not expected to be affected by the dune system.
Wildwood’s biggest beach-related problem is the accretion of sand and its effect on outfall pipes, which are routinely clogged by the excess sand. City beaches grow about 25 feet per year.
The Army Corps report noted, “Wildwood has a persistent outfall maintenance problem due to the large influx of sand to the area.”
Groon raised that issue and the matter of ponding on his beaches, something the Army Corps does not address in its proposal.
Bogle said he has the authority to work on the question of potential hurricane damage, not ponding.
“I can solve your storm-damage problem,” Bogle said. However, he added that removing sand from the front of the beach to create the dune could in turn reduce ponding.
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