At times, Gov. Chris Christie can seem like a force of nature. That's been more apparent than ever in the past six months, as he has dealt with the aftermath of that other force of nature, Hurricane Sandy.
Christie's strong and sometimes out-of-control personality can be off-putting. But when he's on the side of truth, justice and the construction of sand dunes, the governor's style is a thing to behold.
Speaking on Long Beach Island on Tuesday, Christie reiterated his call for a strong line of dunes along the state's 127 miles of coastline. And he went further than he has in the past in promising to play hardball with oceanfront property owners whose refusal to sign easements has held up beach-building projects in the past.
After first telling children in the crowd to cover their ears, Christie used an off-color word - abbreviated as BS - to describe the arguments of people who still haven't signed easements.
"That's what it is," he said, when people claim the state wants to build snack stands or bathrooms, or anything but dunes, on this land. And Christie promised to use the power of his office to get those dunes built.
"I want to make it very clear to you that we are building those dunes, whether you consent or not," he said.
By now, no one should have any doubt about the value of dunes in protecting shore towns. Sandy put an end to any arguments. In towns without dunes, the ocean knocked homes off their foundations and filled streets with sand. Places with strong dunes saw much less damage.
Since Sandy, Longport officials have done an about-face, signing on to the state's Shore Protection Plan. In Margate, where opposition to dunes had been organized and vocal, the City Commission is looking into joining the program.
Still, some property owners resist signing easements for beach work. On Long Beach Island, where the Army Corps of Engineers is getting ready for a beach-replenishment and dune-building project, about 80 property owners have yet to sign easements. Some say they fear the access they grant will allow the state to build anything it wants to in front of their homes. Others don't want to lose any part of their view of the ocean, at least not without being well compensated.
Later this year, the state Supreme Court will hear a case in which a Harvey Cedars couple was awarded $375,000 because the restoration of a dune in front of their home diminished its value. Such awards could make future beach projects prohibitively expensive.
On April 25, the Senate Environment and Energy Committee approved a bill sponsored by Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, to limit the amount a municipality must pay property owners when it condemns oceanfront land to build dunes. The bill, S2599, would require that the value of the added protection a dune provides be considered when just compensation for an easement is determined.
That's a step in the right direction. So is Christie's promise to "call out" and publicly shame property owners whose stubbornness or greed stand in the way of protecting their neighbors' homes.
And that's no BS.