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Margate holds public meeting to discuss dunes project

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MARGATE — Three days after a deluge created a lake behind a newly built sand dune at Delavan Avenue, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has begun pumping the stagnant water over the dune.

“We expect our contractor to begin pumping water out of the basins sometime today,” Army Corps spokesman Stephen Rochette said Tuesday morning. The lake, which formed after a 5-inch rainfall Saturday, remained 15 inches deep in places Tuesday.

Rochette said the state and Army Corps collaborated on the plan, which uses submersible pumps to pump the water over the dunes, allowing it to flow into the ocean.

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The Army Corps would also build temporary elevated walkways between the bulkhead and the dune, he said.

Over the weekend, beachgoers had to trudge through knee-deep water and jump over washed-out walkways to get to the ocean side of the dune. The city erected no-swimming signs to warn people about the dangers of swimming in the water, which is not protected by lifeguards.

Since then, Margate Beach Patrol Chief Greg Smallwood has closed off all access points at street ends that lead to the standing water. Caution tape has been put across the steps to keep people out of standing water he said was a public health threat.

The city’s Board of Commissioners will hold a special meeting 11 a.m. Wednesday at City Hall to discuss the possibility of hiring outside counsel to institute legal action against the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps.

Crowds protest Margate dunes over public health concerns

Some residents believe they need to find a better solution to getting rid of the water and protecting the beach.

“It’s a disgrace. Pumping doesn’t do anything,” said Michael Fishbein. “They need a remedy. It’s a short-term fix. When it rains, it’s going to happen again.”

“More permanent and more proven effective measures like jetties and bulkheads are a one-time project,” said Vincent Castronuovo, 67, of South Argyle Avenue. “They are more expensive but last longer, work better and are also effective at eliminating future sand-moving projects.”

Fishbein, 64, has lived on the 100 block of South Barclay Avenue for 14 years. He’s afraid of what’s going to happen to the sand underneath.

“The water is getting more and more stagnant, filling up with bird feces and becoming more and more polluted,” said Fishbein. “It’s creating a public health hazard.”

Rochette said the Army Corps is also considering filling in some of the basins created as part of the project.

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Contractors had scraped away several feet of sand over a 100-foot-wide area from the bulkhead to the toe of the dune to essentially create a detention basin that would hold stormwater temporarily. Army Corps engineers said any water that collected in that area would percolate into the ground within 24 to 36 hours.

“We’re still determining next steps on potentially filling in the basins to a different elevation,” Rochette said.

About 60 residents held a protest Sunday atop the dune demanding the state and Army Corps fix their beach.

The project is part of the $63 million Absecon Island project. Margate’s initial replenishment and dune construction may be 100 percent funded by federal post-Sandy emergency money. The project calls for the construction of nearly 13-foot-tall dunes on the barrier island.

The city filed to obtain an injunction in federal court but received only a partial victory in trying to stop the project.

Residents say Margate dune construction simply ‘heartbreaking’

A federal judge ruled the state would have to file to take easements needed to build the dune by using the federal government’s eminent domain law, but that the city did not provide enough evidence to prove the project would create a public nuisance.

Contact: 609-601-5196 Twitter @DBCurrent

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