MARGATE — Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez on Thursday issued a restraining order to temporarily stop the dune project in the city.

The judge made his decision after hearing testimony from the city’s attorneys, Jordan Rand and Solicitor John Scott Abbott, and Department of Environmental Protection attorney David Apy.

Mendez said pictures tell a thousand words and called what he has seen of the ponding behind the new sand dune “horrendous.”

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He granted a temporary halt to the project, stating residents and the city are experiencing “irreparable harm,” and gave Margate, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the DEP eight days to work out a solution to Margate’s drainage problem. The parties are due to return to Mendez 1:30 p.m. Aug. 11.

“People should be entitled to enjoying the beach without having to go through an obstacle course,” Mendez said. “I don’t know where the fault lies, but this needs to be corrected.”

City, DEP and Army Corps representatives are due to meet Friday.

Margate’s Board of Commissioners on Thursday planned to approve an emergency expenditure of $100,000 for legal work related to the dune fight, as well as $25,000 to Rand, of the firm of Klehr, Harrison, Harvey, Branzburg of Philadelphia, for services that included filing the injunction heard Thursday.

Margate previously spent more than $314,000 in an unsuccessful fight against the dune project in state court.

More than 100 people packed the commission chambers for the meeting, and another 50 or more gathered outside, eager to follow the proceedings. Those who spoke encouraged the city to fight the project, and some said they would lay down before a tractor or break down the dune by hand with shovels to do so.

Mayor Michael Becker said he was “ecstatic” that Mendez understood the city’s plight and gave the city a temporary stay.

“I believe that reasonable people can sit down and find a workable solution to problems,” Becker said.

Apy said the city was “slow coming to the table” in working out a solution to the drainage problems the city said would develop, but Becker said that is simply not true.

A telephone conference hearing on Margate’s request for a restraining order to stop the dune project will be heard 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 3 in Courtroom 3A at Atlantic County Superior Court, 1201 Bacharach Blvd., Atlantic City. Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez will hear the case. The hearing is open to the public.

“We have been to the table many times. All they offered were demands,” he said.

A third of Margate’s beach remains closed to bathers. Although recent Atlantic County ocean water tests show bacteria readings in the normal range, Becker said tests of the water that ponded behind the dunes show more than 10 times what they should be.

Commissioner John Amodeo, who heads public safety, said a second lifeguard was sent to urgent care Wednesday with a leg rash and fever. Another lifeguard was given a week off work to be treated for a bacterial infection of the foot. Both lifeguards trudged through 15 inches of contaminated water that collected behind the dune following a 5-inch rainfall July 30.

Weeks Marine, the contractor working for the Army Corps, was instructed by the DEP to pump the water over the dune to allow it to flow into the ocean.

Rand said the water in the “lake” festered with bacteria like a “petri dish.”

Apy argued a “confluence of events” caused the ponding: “over aggressive” digging of sand between the dune and bulkhead to create a drainage basin down to the water table, water contained in the sand mined from the ocean to create the dune and a 100-year storm that dumped 4.6 inches of rain in three hours.

He said Weeks Marine has several contracts with the Army Corps and work would have to be done somewhere — whether it was one of the Absecon Island communities or in Ocean County.

Apy said the injunction could cost the contractor $100,000 a day in damages due to project delays. He asked for Margate to post a $1 million bond to cover those costs, which he said someone will have to pay. However, Mendez did not order a bond to be posted.

As of right now, beach work on the island is scheduled to shift to Ventnor in late August and to Longport in early September, all of which is part of the same $63.3 million project to pump 3.8 million cubic yards of sand onto eight miles of beach on the island. The project is funded by the federal government.

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