The dune debate is over. Hurricane Sandy put an end to the argument between people who saw dunes as an indispensable part of shore protection and those who didn't want piles of sand disrupting their ocean views.
At least it seemed to put an end to that argument everywhere in New Jersey except Margate, which is still dithering over whether to become part of an Army Corps of Engineers project to replenish beaches and build dunes on Absecon Island.
This is a no-brainer, folks. When Sandy struck the Jersey shore last October, it made one thing perfectly clear: While beach towns with strong dune lines were shielded from the worst of the storm, towns without dunes were decimated. Gov. Chris Christie has called for a wall of dunes along the entire New Jersey coast.
In Surf City - in a situation that should be instructive to Margate - officials are begging the Army Corps to come back to town and create more dunes. Because some Surf City property owners had refused to sign easements to participate in a replenishment project six years ago, the beaches at three street ends were not eligible for this summer's emergency beach-building project in which the corps restored previously built dunes to their pre-Sandy condition.
If Margate says no to dunes, it would be in the same position after the next major storm.
But in Margate, it's as if Sandy never happened. Because of an ordinance passed in 2001, any dune project must first be approved by the Board of Commissioners and then by a popular referendum. And a decision on whether to accept $20 million worth of sand is being held up by the same tired arguments that haven't been an issue in any other shore town.
Today, at 6:30 p.m., representatives from the Army Corps and the state Department of Environmental Protection will discuss the beach project at a public meeting in Margate. We hope residents will come out with open minds to listen to the professionals and will leave with a commitment to support dunes.
Margate officials are elected to make decisions and to help residents make the right decisions. When a choice is urgent, they must have the courage to act. The commissioners should approve the beach replenishment plan, get it on the November ballot and encourage the people of Margate to vote for dunes.
And those who cling to the old arguments against dunes should take a ride north and visit the towns that were devastated last October, the towns that could have been Margate, if Sandy had struck just a bit farther south.