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Coastal NJ town unfazed by $12 million fine; continues to repair the dunes in defiance of state authorities

  • North Wildwood, New Jersey, is reportedly still carrying out repair work on its eroding dunes in defiance of state officials who refuse to approve the project.
  • Officials in the small beach town, located in Cape May County near the southern tip of the Jersey Shore, reportedly authorized repair work as recently as June 5.
  • The city’s ongoing attacks on environmental officials, which have earned it $12 million in fines, have left Environmental Protection Department chief Sean LaTourette “baffled.”

Not even $12 million in fines is enough to stop a Jersey Shore town from razing sand to its beach to reinforce eroded areas in defiance of state environmental officials.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection said North Wildwood again performed unauthorized repairs to its eroding dunes, most recently on June 5 without state approval and in violation of a February court order imposed by a judge trying to sort through the sand of a decade. storm between the two parties.

On Thursday, DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette wrote to North Wildwood officials offering a last-ditch attempt to resolve the issue without imposing additional penalties and warning that the city’s conduct jeopardizes funding for future beach protection projects.


Describing himself as “bewildered” by North Wildwood’s actions, LaTourette wrote that the city “has repeatedly engaged in destructive and unlawful behavior in the name of tourism and, supposedly, public safety. is a mistake and it must stop”.

Mayor Patrick Rosenello said the state is to blame for not facilitating the same kind of government beach restoration project in his city that most of the rest of the Jersey Shore has been receiving for decades.

“The DEP needs to spend more time protecting the Jersey Shore and less time on threats and intimidation,” he said. “If they had just done their job, none of this would have happened, and it all goes away. Truly amazing.”

The city recently erected signs at entrances to its beaches with photos and phone numbers of LaTourette and Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, with a message saying, “These two individuals are directly responsible for the state’s inaction in the reconstitution of the beaches of North Wildwood.

North Wildwood seems unfazed by state fines and threats: It is suing the state for $21 million, to recoup what it says is the cost of trucking sand across its eroding beaches for a decade.

A bulldozer repairs a sand dune in North Wildwood, New Jersey, for state-approved emergency work, May 22, 2023. North Wildwood has yet to relent in carrying out unauthorized repairs to its badly eroded dunes , despite eight-figure fines imposed by state environmental officials. taken from the small town by the sea. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

The standoff between the city – a top vacation destination for Philadelphians – and the state centers on North Wildwood being last in line for beach replenishments by the US Army Corps of Engineers, in part because of the difficulty in obtaining the necessary approvals. from the owners. This long-awaited project is finally moving forward, but won’t materialize until at least 2025.

Because of this, parts of the city’s beaches have been severely eroded, prompting the city to act alone to shore up the dunes when it feels they have become endangered, often without state permission.

The DEP claims that every action involving heavy equipment moving sand weakened and reduced the height of the dunes, in effect making matters worse while destroying natural plant and animal habitat.

The two sides reached a temporary truce in late May when erosion created steep cliffs where the beach entrances used to be, a dangerous condition just before the start of the Memorial Day holiday weekend. The state granted a one-time permit to carry out emergency repairs on the waterfront on this occasion.

He did not approve the June 5 dune work, for which the city sought approval the following day, after the work was substantially complete. But Rosenello said the city informed the DEP in advance of what it planned to do on the beach.


He also said the city views the erosion preceding the June 5 work as an extension of the same problem that led the state to issue emergency clearance in May. Therefore, he said, the city was justified in repairing the dunes again.

“It was the exact same job in the same place,” he said. “There is so little left of this dune that we don’t need a direct hit from a hurricane for it to disappear completely.”

LaTourette said the DEP “has been willing to resolve millions in penalties owed by the city for its repeated illegal and environmentally destructive activities.”


But he said North Wildwood must “immediately cease and desist from this law-breaking pattern and practice. You are putting public safety, the environment and the city’s access to financial support at risk.” continuous for the protection of the coasts”.


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