Rules prohibiting some Cape May County towns from replenishing their beaches with sand from Hereford Inlet have been overturned by the U.S. secretary of the interior.
U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, D-2nd, said the Coastal Barrier Resources Act will no longer prevent Stone Harbor, Avalon and North Wildwood from mining sand within the CBRA and using it on their beaches outside the protected area.
Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt announced the change in a Monday letter to Van Drew and other members of Congress who had brought up similar concerns.
“Congress did not intend to constrain the flexibility of agencies to accomplish the CBRA’s broader purposes of protecting coastal barrier resources by requiring beach renourishment to occur ‘solely’ within the system,” Bernhardt wrote.
There is new hope for resolution of a bureaucratic problem that has made beach replenishment…
“CBRA was creating unnecessary red tape that was having the opposite effect of its original intent,” Van Drew said.
The project affects Avalon, Stone Harbor and North Wildwood. In 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in a reversal of previous policy, stalled a beach replenishment project there, citing restrictions of the CBRA.
The communities were faced with going farther away to mine sand at an estimated cost increase of more than $6.5 million.
“We all worked together in a bipartisan effort,” Van Drew said of his office and the three affected communities. “I brought them to a meeting with the secretary of the interior himself.”
Once it was clear to Bernhardt the restrictions would cost the communities millions more, and that Hereford Inlet had been used for a long time for beach replenishment, “the secretary saw it our way,” Van Drew said.
From an environmental standpoint, Van Drew said, the change is for the better because it uses dredged materials from a navigable inlet on local beaches. Over the years, such replenishment has created new beach habitat for wildlife, local officials have said.
“That was a nice win in a tough few weeks,” Van Drew said of a period that included a vote to proceed with impeachment in the House of Representatives and the loss by Democrats in the recent 1st District state Senate and Assembly races.
The CBRA was passed in 1982 to prohibit federal financial assistance for development on coastal barrier land. The goals were to minimize loss of life and property, reduce wasteful expenditures and protect natural resources.
In 1996, the service granted an exception to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to use sand from a borrow area in Hereford Inlet for a flood and coastal storm damage reduction project called New Jersey Shore Protection, Townsends Inlet to Cape May Inlet. The project not only protected the coastline from storm damage, but created more than a mile of critical habitat at Stone Harbor Point for migratory birds, Van Drew’s office said. Over the years, the borrow site has been used to replenish the Stone Harbor coastline three times.
“Thanks to the efforts of all three communities, as well as our congressman, we finally have a permanent, common-sense solution to this matter,” said Avalon Mayor Martin Pagliughi.
“This relief ... is exactly what our three communities have been seeking for years,” said Stone Harbor Mayor Judy Davies-Dunhour. “Stone Harbor Point is now an ecological asset, created only by previous beach fill efforts.”
North Wildwood Mayor Patrick Rosenello called it a perfect example of government working together on all levels to eliminate a problematic rule.