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‘All Unauthorized Activities Must Cease Immediately’

A North Wildwood dump truck unloads sand in front of the city’s Beach Patrol headquarters between 15th and 16th avenues Oct. 20

By Christopher South

NORTH WILDWOOD – In a kind of back-and-forth battle of correspondence, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) responded the same day to an Oct. 20 letter written by attorney Neil Yoskin on behalf of the City of North Wildwood, which said the city planned to alter dunes on city beaches that it considered a threat to public safety. 
The DEP’s response was immediate and direct, saying, “All unauthorized activities must cease immediately.” North Wildwood Mayor Patrick said the city intends to disregard DEP notices. 
“They might as well save their ink on Notices of Violation because they are meaningless to us,” Rosenello said. 
Michel Kropilak, manager of the DEP’s Bureau of Coastal and Land Use Compliance and Enforcement, told the city it must also immediately respond to Senior Environmental Specialist Michael Lutz explaining what corrective action the city was taking to comply with the notice of violation. The DEP’s Oct. 20 letter concludes that a violation has occurred, and the matter may not be appealed or contested. 
The letter further warns that the notice does not preclude the state from initiating formal administrative actions or judicial enforcement actions. Those penalties can be assessed on a daily basis, per violation. 
Rosenello said if the DEP wants to elevate the disagreement to the level of a legal fight, he is not worried and has confidence in the city’s legal team and professionals. 
However, Yoskin said the best-case scenario is for the DEP to recognize the severity of the situation and work with North Wildwood. So far, he said, the DEP has denied a request from North Wildwood for an emergency authorization (EA) for work that, according to the city, was in the best interest of public safety.
Yoskin said the DEP’s response was that the matter didn’t rise to the level of an emergency. The work included placing temporary barriers in front of the Beach Patrol Headquarters at 15th Avenue, which the DEP approved. It also included the denied requests to reshape dune remnants, reconstruct vehicle access at 16th and 25th avenues, and install 404 feet of steel bulkhead. 
While some of the beaches on 5 Mile Island have gained sand, North Wildwood has been dealing with beach erosion for many years. Yoskin said the DEP has never offered any answers, and North Wildwood has not received a hydraulic beach fill to build up the beaches. Yoskin said there are a variety of reasons why, but some are just related to state and federal programs. 
“The reality is, there is very little beach to work with. That’s why the city is saying we have to regrade the dunes and build a bulkhead,” Yoskin said. “The DEP wants to restore dunes? The city would love to restore dunes if they have a beach.” 
Yoskin said the city could take the matter to court and file for a declaratory judgment but said that creates a cumbersome situation. 
“It also calls for the court to substitute its judgment for DEP’s judgment,” Yoskin said. 
Meanwhile, Rosenello said the DEP has a conflict of interest within the department.
“You have one office in the DEP charged with building shore protection, which it has failed to do for 10 years, and another office in the same agency critiquing us for doing the job of the DEP. Just do your job,” Rosenello said. 
Rosenello said the DEP should come down to North Wildwood when waves are breaking over the seawall and write a Notice of Violation. 
The DEP did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
Thoughts? Comments? Email csouth@cmcherald.com or call 609-886-8600 ext. 128.

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