Watchdog: Some seek buyouts of flooded properties

Written by Todd Bates

Original article can be read at:

Floodwaters flowed into Fran O’Connor’s low-lying Sayreville home three times in the past three years, with devastating results.

The first two storms – a March 2010 nor’easter and Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011 – brought about 4 to 5 feet of water into the house. But that was just a warm-up to superstorm Sandy, when at least 10 feet of water inundated the home.

“It actually looked like a war zone here after the storm,” said O’Connor, 54, a 16-year resident of hard-hit Weber Avenue. “The entire contents of everyone’s homes was ripped out and piled up on the curb of their houses.” …

Study: NJ Beaches 30-40 Feet Narrower After Storm

By WAYNE PARRY — Nov. 20 3:01 AM EST

SPRING LAKE, N.J. (AP) — The average New Jersey beach is 30 to 40 feet narrower after Superstorm Sandy, according to a survey that is sure to intensify a long-running debate on whether federal dollars should be used to replenish stretches of sand that only a fraction of U.S. taxpayers use.

Some of New Jersey’s famous beaches lost half their sand when Sandy slammed ashore in late October.

The shore town of Mantoloking, one of the hardest-hit communities, lost 150 feet of beach, said Stewart Farrell, director of Stockton College’s Coastal Research Center and a leading expert on beach erosion.

Routine storms tear up beaches in any season, and one prescription for protecting communities from storm surge has been to replenish beaches with sand pumped from offshore. Places with recently beefed-up beaches saw comparatively little damage, said Farrell, whose study’s findings were made available to The Associated Press.

“It really, really works,” Farrell said. “Where there was a federal beach fill in place, there was no major damage — no homes destroyed, no sand piles in the streets. Where there was no beach fill, water broke through the dunes.”

The beach-replenishment projects have been controversial both for their expense and because waves continually wash away the new sand. The federal government picks up 65 percent of the cost, with the rest coming from state and local coffers.

How big the beaches are — or whether there is a beach at all to go to — is a crucial question that must be resolved before the summer tourism season. The Jersey shore powers the state’s $35.5 billion tourism industry.

But the pending spending showdown between congressional Republicans and Democrats could make it even harder to secure hundreds of millions of additional dollars for beach replenishment.

From 1986 to 2011, nearly $700 million was spent placing 80 million cubic yards of sand on about 55 percent of the New Jersey coast. Over that time, the average beach gained 4 feet of width, according to the Coastal Research Center. And just before the storm hit, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded nearly $28 million worth of contracts for new replenishment projects in southern New Jersey’s Cape May County.

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, used a photo of a pig on the cover of his 2009 report “Washed Out To Sea,” in which he characterized beach replenishment as costly, wasteful pork that the nation could not afford.

“Taxpayers are not surprised when they learn how Congress wastes billions of dollars on questionable programs and projects each year, but it may still shock taxpayers to know that Congress has literally dumped nearly $3 billion into beach projects that have washed out to sea,” he wrote.

A message seeking comment was left Monday with Coburn’s office.

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, predicted lawmakers from New Jersey and New York would be able to get additional shore protection funds included in the next federal budget, despite partisan wars.

“I think we will be able to make the case,” he said. “We can show that this provides long-term protection to property and lives. You can either pay up front to keep on top of projects like this, or you can pay on the back end” through disaster recovery funds.

Menendez this week noted that Congress has approved emergency recovery funds for victims of Hurricane Katrina and tornadoes in Missouri, among other natural disasters.

During a tour of storm-wrecked neighborhoods in Seaside Heights and Hoboken, Vice President Joe Biden also vowed the federal government would pay to rebuild New Jersey.

“This is a national responsibility; this is not a local responsibility,” Biden said. “We’re one national government, and we have an obligation.”

Jogging in the street because Sandy had destroyed the Spring Lake boardwalk for the second time in little over a year, Michele Degnan-Spang said it was difficult to comprehend how things have changed in her community.

A few stray planks of the synthetic gray boardwalk that was just replaced last year after Tropical Storm Irene were strewn about the sand; concrete pilings that used to support the boardwalk now stretch for a mile off to the horizon like little Stonehenges.

“It’s horrible,” she said. “It’s draining to see this. It’s surreal. I’m walking through it and saying, ‘This really is happening.'”

Degnan-Spang predicted she and her extended family would be back on the sand soon, though.

“The drive is going to be to get back on the beach next summer, no matter what it looks like,” she said. “We don’t go on vacation because we live in the most beautiful spot in the world. We all go to the beach; it’s what summer is. It’ll come back; it’ll just be different.”


Wayne Parry can be reached at

Rebuild The Right Way After Sandy Or Pay The Price [AUDIO]

March 19, 2013 5:23 AM
By Kevin McArdle

Original article can be read here.

New Jerseyans have very clear and very strong opinions on rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy.

They also think anyone who ignores federal advice about rebuilding should face serious consequences. That’s just a portion of the results from the most recent Fairleigh Dickinson University-PublicMind poll released this morning.

“By an almost two-to-one margin poll respondents told us property owners should be required to rebuild in a way that makes their dwelling better protected rather than allowing homeowners to rebuild in whatever manner they choose,” explains Krista Jenkins, Director of PublicMind and professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University. “Also by about a two-to-one margin people believe that a failure to heed the advice of FEMA when rebuilding should result in a forfeiture of federal assistance for property owners if another big storm damages their property or wipes it out as opposed to allowing them to recoup their losses.”

Political And Educational Break Downs

Garden Staters of all political and social stripes agree with mandated rebuilding in a specific way. Education is about the only clear predictor of attitudes toward rebuilding, with the educated more strongly in favor of directed rebuilding than those with less than a college degree.

Those with college degrees are significantly more likely to say those affected should be required to rebuild in a specific way (72 percent) or run the risk of forfeiting future assistance (66 percent) as compared with those with high school degrees (53 and 45 percent) or some college (56 and 56 percent).

Even partisanship, something that often divides Garden Staters on issues related to public spending and government intrusion into private matters, is unrelated to attitudes toward rebuilding.

“This is a touchy subject,” says Jenkins. “On the one hand, there are rights of property owners who wish to maintain their freedom to rebuild in the manner they both choose and can afford, while one must also consider the public’s right to make sure money isn’t spent on those who fail to take adequate precautions against the darker side of Mother Nature.”

Sandy Aid And Storm Recovery

The vast majority of Garden Staters were either unaffected personally by Sandy (64 percent) or are now completely recovered (21 percent), but one in seven (15 percent) still say they’re struggling to get back what was lost over four months ago. Their plight is recognized by many New Jersey residents.

When asked if they were satisfied or unsatisfied with the pace of federal assistance to the state, half (51 percent) report dissatisfaction, while significantly fewer (30 percent) are satisfied.

“Taken as a whole, these numbers suggest that Garden Staters are looking for everyone to act responsibly in the aftermath of Sandy,” explains Jenkins. “Property owners should rebuild with adequate protections in place and the federal government should do more to help the hardest hit.”

Christie vs Cuomo

Rebuild vs. Retreat: Christie and Cuomo offer contrasting plans in wake of Sandy

March 15, 2013
Written by Shawn Boburg – Amy Newman, Photo

In New Jersey, owners of damaged coastal homes would get cash to stay put and rebuild. In New York, those on the water’s edge would get generous incentives to walk away.

It’s a difference that could mean divergent futures for both states’ shorelines. And the calculus that goes into the two approaches — by Governor Christie in New Jersey and Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York — has set off a complex debate among environmentalists, planners, economists and government officials about which is a bigger threat: rising sea levels that could pose a future risk to rebuilt communities, or the economic and emotional impact of peeling back development from the coast.

It also underscores the differences between two popular politicians on different sides of the aisle, each of whom has been mentioned as a potential presidential candidate in 2016.

Read complete article here.

Panel Advises Retreat and Buyouts

Panel Takes Sobering Look at Future of the Shore

March 14, 2013
By Inquirer Staff Writer Amy S. Rosenberg

TRENTON – It was a late-afternoon panel of disaster, insurance, and recovery experts speaking in a committee room far from the Shore, but the sobering message Tuesday was aimed squarely at the state’s vulnerable edge: Your way of life may be as tenuous as your house was during Sandy.

Retreat is a bad word,” said Judd Schechtman, a graduate fellow at the Rutgers University School of Planning and Public Policy. ” Retreathas a very negative connotation, especially in New Jersey. We need a reframing of this: restoration. This is ecological restoration at its heart.”

Read complete article here.

Dunes vs. Replenishment

Hurricane Sandy and the Jersey Shore:
Did Engineering or ecology protect us better?
Ledger Live for Feb. 1, 2013 – Ledger Live with Brian Donohue.
On today’s Ledger Live, Donohue compares the highly engineered beaches of Sea Bright, New Jersey with the wind-formed dunes of Midway Beach in the South Seaside Park section of Berkeley Township. While Sea Bright was devastated by Hurricane Sandy, Midway was unscathed. Donohue asserts that outcome runs counter to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s assertion that towns with “engineered beaches” fared better in the storm.

View Dunes vs Replenishment video here.

Hyping Storm Erosion to Push Beachfill

Reporters and politicians, or we should say reporters following politicians, love to run out on to the beach after major storms and declare the beaches are eroding and therefore need replenishing.  It happens every time and Hurricane Sandy was no exception.  This Associated Press article by Wayne Parry from  November 20, 2012 proves the point and was widely distributed.

Any beachgoer knows that in another few months, all that sand will be back.  It comes and goes.  It gets pulled offshore into sandbars in winter and during storms, and it is pushed back onto beaches during calmer conditions of summer.  While the steady rise of our oceans is real, the claims of mass erosion after storms are sometimes just the claims of the sand-industrial complex.

But this article had an especially offensive claim that anywhere a federal beachfill project was in place there was considerably less damage.  That claim, by Stockton College’s Stewart Farrell, was patently false, especially in Monmouth County NJ and it gave rise to this response.

Raw Video From Long Beach Island, NJ

Nov 3, 2012

New England Cable News served these 10 mins. of silent aerial footage showing the devastation wrought by Sandy to Long Beach Island.  This starts at Taylor Ave in Beach Haven, pans south to downtown Beach Haven and then further south to Holgate.  Clearly there was overwash on the beachfront earlier, but now the first two blocks are high and dry.  Yet the Bay extends inward 3 blocks in places.  This shows the oceanfront is the highest part of the island, and strong, natural dunes will add protection, but dunes and beach replenishment won’t stop bayside flooding.   View video here.