Lake Margate Protest (4).JPG

MARGATE – The city has scheduled a special public meeting 11 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 2 at Historic City Hall, 1 S. Washington Ave. to consider possible legal action against the NJ Department of Environment Protection and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over what residents say is a flawed dune construction project.

“At the meeting on Wednesday, we will discuss if we should hire outside counsel to seek an injunction to stop the project,” Mayor Michael Becker said in a telephone interview Monday afternoon.

On Sunday, about 100 residents gathered on the beach at Delavan Avenue to protest the lack of corrective action taken by municipal, state and federal officials after a heavy rainfall dumped 15 inches of stormwater between the dune and the bulkhead. They are calling it “Lake Margate.”

Army Corps spokesman Stephen Rochette said a detention area was created to accommodate stormwater flowing to the beach from the street ends, and that hydraulic engineers are monitoring the situation.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers removed about two feet of sand from the beach to create the wide detention area. Engineers who designed the project said any stormwater that collects in the area would percolate into the sand within 24 to 36 hours.

“We had our team out there over the weekend following an extraordinary rainfall that dumped more than 5 inches of rain,” Rochette said Monday morning. “We are monitoring the situation and working with the state to see if there is a possible solution.”

No work stoppage has been issued for the dune project, he said, and Weeks Marine, Inc. of Cranford, which was awarded a $63 million contract, is continuing the berm and beachfill project south of the Margate pier.

“A dredge was down for a few days because of weather issues, but it is back in operation,” Rochette said.

It was 2 p.m. Sunday, when residents gathered for an impromptu hour-long protest atop the new dune at Delavan Avenue, chanting “Fix our beach,” and “What do we want? Environmental protection. When do we want it? Now.”

On the east side of the dune, there were umbrellas and families enjoying sun and surf. On the west side of the dune, people were trudging with their beach gear through knee-high water and over a narrow strip of sand to get to the dune cross over.

“People can’t access the beach, and now we have an environmental problem,” said Joann Cistone, who has lived on the beach block for 14 years.

Anita Levin, an Argyle Avenue resident, called it “disgusting.”

“Why wasn’t someone smart enough to prevent this from happening?” she said.

Barbara Krachman, a 25-year resident of Clarendon Avenue, said she wants the detention basin filled back in with sand before the mosquitoes come.

“I’ve lived here for 40 years and we never had a beach problem like this. It’s a disgrace,” Barclay Avenue resident Ruth Dorman said. “Older people can’t get through and families with children are pulling their beach chairs through this bacteria-laden swamp. We didn’t even have this after Hurricane Sandy. They ruined our beaches and they did it in the middle of the summer.”

Donald Krachman, a family physican, said Lake Margate is not only a public health hazard but a serious liability for the city, county, state and federal government.

“What if a child walks in there and drowns?” he said. “The water is there because they took away all the supporting sand.”

Other residents, including Sol Mermelstein, said they are concerned about how the dune is affecting their property values.

“If you take away our beach access and our view, those amenities we enjoyed and paid for are now diminished,” he said.

Argyle Avenue resident Bruce Folbaum, who walks with the aid of a cane or walker, said because of the water he was denied access to the beach near his home, which he called a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. He had to go to the boardwalk in Ventnor to get lifeguards to give him a dune buggy ride to his family sitting on the Margate beach.

DEP spokesman Larry Hajna said the state and Army Corps discussed the drainage issue last week and would have another telephone conference Monday afternoon.

“Nothing can be resolved overnight,” he said.

Hajna said the flooding came at an “inopportune time,” considering the freshly built dune was created with already-water-saturated sand being mined from the ocean, last weekend’s rainfall, and “the incredible rainfall” Friday into Saturday.

“The sand was still wet, the dunes were fresh and the extraordinary rainfall of 6 to 7 inches. We are working to see what the next best step will be,” Hajna said.

Coastal monitoring flights cited drainage issues on several beaches from Atlantic City south to Cape May, he said.

“There will be another flight tomorrow,” he said.

Becker said the city has requested that the county test the water and that no swimming signs have been erected in the area.

“We’re doing what we can,” he said.

Contact 609-601-5196 Twitter @DBCurrent


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