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Christie’ Sea Wall Follies

Mantoloking Sea Wall a $40 Million Boondoggle That Will Worsen Erosion

Project Conflicts with Findings of Gov. Christie’s Own Hazard Plan

Mantoloking cut on barrier island – Rt 35 and bridge washed out by Sandy. Sea wall location

In order to illustrate the problem of why sea walls don’t work and are discouraged, I’ve tried a variety of tactics.

I’ve mocked Gov. Christie (as King Canute, trying to hold back the sea).

I’ve summarized the literature and outlined the policies of other state coastal management programs to explain, highlighted by a dramatic photo – see: Memo to Gov. Christie: Sea Walls and Engineering Don’t Work.

Like those other coastal states, sea walls used to be discouraged by NJ DEP’s coastal management program as well.

But all that changed when “customer service” Commissioner Bob Martin took over and Gov. Christie got “drunk on federal dollars coming in” (that’s a verbatim quote from legislative testimony of former DEP Commissioner Mark Mauriello, a coastal expert).

Engineered structures also are inconsistent with the recommendations of President Obama’s Sandy Rebuilding Task Force Report, the resiliency policy in new HUD regulations, and President Obama’s Executive Order on adaptation to climate change.

But you don’t have to take my word for it – or Mr. Mauriello’s.

Here is what Gov. Christie’s own Hazard Mitigation Plan says about sea walls – they don’t work and make erosion problems worse:

Historically, some of the methods used by municipalities and property owners to stop or slow down coastal erosion or shoreline change have actually exacerbated the problem. Attempting to halt the natural process of erosion with shore parallel or perpendicular structures such as seawalls (groins and jetties) and other hard structures typically worsens the erosion in front of the structure (i.e. walls), prevents or starves any sediment behind the structure (groins) from supplying down-drift properties with sediment, and subjects down-drift beaches to increased erosion. Since most sediment transport associated with erosion and longshore drift has been reduced, some of the State’s greatest assets and attractions – beaches, dunes, barrier beaches, salt marshes, and estuaries – are threatened and will slowly disappear as the sediment sources that feed and sustain them are eliminated.

Sandy barrier/bluff coastlines are constantly changing as the result of wind, currents, storms, and sea-level rise. Because of this, developed sandy shorelines are often stabilized with hardened structures (seawalls, bulkheads, revetments, rip-rap, gabions, and groins) to protect coastal properties from erosion. While hardened structures typically prove to be beneficial in reducing property damage, the rate of coastal erosion typically increases near stabilization structures. This increased erosion impacts natural habitats, spawning grounds, recreational activity areas, and public access (Frizzera 2011). Table 5.2-1 summarizes the number and type of NJDEP shoreline structures off the coastline of New Jersey along the Atlantic Ocean and Inland Bays (current as of 1993).  (Chapter 5.2)

It appears that some folks along the shore clearly understand all that, because public opposition is growing to DEP’s proposed $40 million 4 mile long sea wall along the shore of Mantoloking.

The ill conceived project – rammed through by transportation engineers just days after Sandy cut through the barrier island and washed out Rt. 35 and the Rt 528 bay bridge –  has suffered a series of snafu’s and setbacks.

Apparently, the State constructed it illegally – and above ground portions had to be taken down:

A temporary sea wall installed along Route 35 where Superstorm Sandy broke through to Barnegat Bay in Mantoloking is being taken down now so oceanfront property owners can access their property, according to the state Department of Transportation. …

When asked why the temporary wall is being dismantled before bids have even gone out for the permanent structure, Greeley said the removal is at the request of oceanfront property owners who have the right to get on their property and that the underground portion of the temporary wall will still be in place to help stabilize the beach.


Next, DEP screwed up – check this one out:

Notice mistake will delay Mantoloking sea wall


MANTOLOKING — A mistake at the state Department of Environmental Protection in which written comments on the planned borough sea wall were sent to the wrong address in Trenton is forcing state officials to extend the comment period and to delay the start of the project. They contend it won’t be much more than a week’s difference.

Ooops again.

Let’s hope that this latest set back can provide time to allow adequate consideration and public opposition to grow and kill the project.

DEP is far to “drunk on federal funds” and under the influence of the outdated thinking of coastal engineers to change course.

It will take an external intervention to stop this folly.

(I wonder where all those “Stop FEMA Now!” folks are? I thought they opposed wasteful government boondoggles.)

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