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Sunday, June 16, 2024

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Murphy Visits North Wildwood to View Beach Fill Project

Christopher South
Gov. Phil Murphy visited North Wildwood on Friday, June 7, to get an update on its emergency beach fill project. From left are Murphy, Genevieve Clifton of the state Department of Transportation, North Wildwood Mayor Patrick Rosenello and state Sen. Michael Testa.

By Christopher South

NORTH WILDWOOD – Gov. Phil Murphy stopped in North Wildwood on Friday, June 7, for an update on the $17 million replenishment project that will see approximately 330,000 cubic yards of sand pumped onto the city’s beaches.

The project got underway on Monday, June 3, and pumps began running on Wednesday, June 5, at 7th Avenue. It will first move north, wrapping around the jetty at 2nd Avenue and John F. Kennedy Boulevard, areas that have seen a significant amount of erosion.

Genevieve Clifton of the state Department of Transportation’s Office of Maritime Resources briefed the governor on what is being done. Pointing south from 7th Avenue, she told Murphy the beach fill would also go south, nearly to the first amusement pier in Wildwood, and that it would protect the shore as well as the economy.

“How are the residents feeling, here?” the governor asked, indicating the condos across JFK Boulevard.

“They are applauding, cheering,” Clifton said.

Murphy said he was grateful to see the progress that was evident, even though the project is not expected to be completed until about July 4. Workers are tackling about 1,000 feet of beach at a time, and work sites will be closed to the public. The project will move from south to north and take care of the most eroded beaches, and then head south from 7th Avenue.

“We have found common ground – a common purpose,” the governor said, addressing news teams.

Murphy said the replenishment was not in place of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project that has been in the works since 2013. The Corps project is designed to build an approximately 16-foot-high dune the length of the island, stretching into four different municipalities, and include a berm that will offer added protection.

A slurry of sand and water being pumped onto the beach in North Wildwood north of 7th Avenue. The governor stepped in to help the city get sand before the summer economy was affected. Photo Credit: Christopher South

“This was an emergency,” he said, adding that the community thrives during the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and it depends on its beaches to do so.

The state is paying $10 million of the $17 million project, with North Wildwood making up the balance.

Murphy declined to answer a question about why the project had gone to the Department of Transportation rather than the Department of Environmental Protection.

“Let’s leave the DEP out of this … period,” he said. “The DOT is renowned for being able to move like a cat.”

Murphy said everyone involved had good intentions, and that it was time everyone put their differences aside. North Wildwood and the DEP have been at loggerheads for the past several years, going back and forth over authorization to change beach profiles.

After the two sides disagreed about what constituted emergencies, the city determined to do whatever it needed to do to protect its citizens and their property. The DEP levied fines against the city, and the city filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the DEP.

Eventually, the governor intervened, as the summer economy in North Wildwood was considered to be at risk.

The city also has blamed the DEP for delaying the Army Corps project by not fulfilling its duties in obtaining easement agreements from the municipalities involved, saying if the dune project had been completed the city would not have been fighting to install bulkheads to protect certain properties, such as the North Wildwood Beach Patrol headquarters building at 15th Avenue.

“God willing the Army Corps will get going sooner than later,” Murphy said.

The governor said he understood how important the beaches are to local economies and that some beaches present an almost annual challenge for Shore towns.

A small group of protesters who called themselves Guardians of the East Coast held a banner with Murphy’s image and reading “Whale Killer” and shouted as Murphy left the area. The group blamed him for promoting wind farms off the New Jersey coastline. To date, no wind farms have been erected in the Atlantic Ocean.

Contact the reporter, Christopher South, at csouth@cmcherald.com or 609-886-8600, ext. 128.

Reporter

Christopher South is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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