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NJ shore town fined $12M for building own dunes begins emergency beachfront repairs

A bulldozer began moving sand along a stretch of badly eroded beach Monday in a Jersey Shore town where the bitter fight over how to protect its rapidly shrinking shoreline has led to $33 million worth of litigation.

Before the summer tourism season kicks off this weekend, North Wildwood hopes to repair dunes in the most heavily eroded section of its beach and restore beach access points to usable condition. The state Department of Environmental Protection granted permission for emergency repairs last week.

The town and the state have been fighting for years over how best to protect North Wildwood’s shoreline as it waits to become the last part of the state to receive a beach replenishment project that is still at least two years away.

North Wildwood dune construction

Emergency dune construction in North Wildwood, New Jersey, a shore town embroiled in litigation with state environmental officials. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

North Wildwood, in turn, is suing the state for $21 million, which it says is how much it has spent trucking sand to the shoreline over the past decade to try to keep up with erosion.

“We are happy to get this work completed soon,” said Mayor Patrick Rosenello. “But this certainly doesn’t fix the much larger issue, which is the lack of a beach nourishment project in North Wildwood.”

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North Wildwood and its surrounding coastal neighbors have not received the periodic beach replenishment projects that most of the rest of the Jersey Shore has been getting for decades, due in part to the difficulty of getting approval from property owners.

Numerous violation notices issued by the state remain active, including one that involves work the city did several years ago along a section of beachfront that it said had become badly eroded. The state said the work destroyed 8 acres of vegetated dunes, including 6.7 acres of critical wildlife habitat, and 1.1 acres of freshwater wetlands.

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North Wildwood previously built a vinyl and steel bulkhead for about 10 blocks without state approval, saying it needed to act urgently to protect lives and property. That is separate from the latest bulkhead the city wanted to build, but agreed to forego for now.

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