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The Wrap: The Lure of the Beach, Flood Insurance, Respiratory Problems

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By Herald Staff

Get ‘The Wrap,’ our take on the news of the week, in your inbox every Tuesday. Sign up at https://bit.ly/3goVpVr.
Nov. 14 to 20
The Lure of the Beach
In his entertaining and informative book The Lure of the Sea A Global History, Robert Ritchie sets the first true beach resort at Baiae, located in the northwest of the Gulf of Naples. With Rome’s empire expanding and a wealthy leisure class developing with it, Baiae grew as a place to relax and forget the cares of empire. 
Beaches have long been an attraction like few others. Cape May County has built an entire economy around them. That economy depends on the Sisyphean task of beach replenishment, the periodic spending of millions of dollars to create and maintain beaches. Although the argument for replenishments is that their primary purpose is the protection of lives and property from storm surges, no one would claim that sand on the beach was not also essential to a multibillion dollar economy.
Even the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) agrees that “New Jersey’s beaches are a vital recreational resource as well as a buffer between ocean waves and landward development.” The Army Corps of Engineers Coastal Risk Management Program covers a range of 130 miles of New Jersey coastline with ten separate federal project areas. 
In October the Army Corps announced the award of a $21.5 million beach nourishment project for Ocean City. Later that same month the Corps gave out another contract for the nourishment of beaches at Lower Cape May Meadows and Cape May Point. While we don’t yet have the budget numbers, bids were opened November 2 and an award has been made for the replenishment of beaches along the 7 Mile Island.  
There is controversy over the replenishments.
Some environmental groups, like the NJ chapter of the Sierra Club, are against the continued replenishments. Others argue replenishments encourage coastal zone development that will be vulnerable to climate change.
So far, the beat goes on and so does the sand onto the beach. 
Flood Insurance
When FEMA revamped its methodology for setting flood insurance premiums, some, including New Jersey’s Senator Bob Menendez, argued that the new rating system, dubbed Equity in Action by FEMA, would drive policy holders away from the National Flood Insurance Program.  
The rating system went onto effect starting with new policies in 2021 and now applies to all policies as they come up for renewal. Even though major rain event storms have increased risk the number of policies in force in NFIP has been decreasing over the past year. 
FEMA’s own data shows total policies in force in August were over 170,000 less than the previous year. Some states one would never expect to see experiencing declines in policies have surprising numbers. Florida is down 49,000 policies, Louisiana 20,000 and Texas is down 62,000. New Jersey has held firm with no decrease in the number of policies in force at a total of 200,000 for the state.
In Cape May County, FEMA data says there are 40,000 policies in force, covering $11.8 billion in property with a total annual premium of $30 million. While this is similar to one year ago, it represents a drop from 2019.
Respiratory Problems
Respiratory illnesses have come early and hard this year. According to the New Jersey Department of Health’s Respiratory Illness Surveillance Report for mid-November the state is already seeing a higher activity level than is the norm for this point in the flu season.  
Influenza-like illness (ILI) absenteeism in New Jersey public schools is up from the same period last year with 7.25% this year compared to 4.15% during this week last year. The county breakdown shows Cape May County with the highest percentage of absenteeism in schools due to ILI in the state at almost 16%. 
Emergency departments are also seeing high absenteeism due to ILI. This comes as visits to emergency rooms with ILI are up.  
A separate tracking of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in New Jersey is showing positive test results nearing 15%. Cape May County is listed in the surveillance report as having no RSV tests performed leaving us with no percentage of positive test results.
Happenings
Orsted held an Ocean City virtual session on Ocean Wind I transmission cables that quickly morphed into a multi-hour comment period on the wind farm project.  
Hospital safety ratings are out and Cape Regional held the B grade it has earned each year since 2020. Both AtlantiCare hospitals also received B grades, with a C grade given to Shore Medical Center.
 With the pandemic fading from people’s everyday consciousness, an Avalon singing group is back performing for the first time in three years at Veterans Day activities.
Cape May introduced an ordinance banning exhibition driving attempting to make the type of pop up car rally that had disastrous results in Wildwood less likely to occur in the historic resort.
School board elections drew more candidates than seen in recent years. School boards are now dealing with divisive issues that can cause conflict with parent groups. 
Atlantic City Electric has announced a portfolio of 80 projects that the company says will increase reliability and allow for the connection of more distributed solar generated electricity. The overall impact is a modernization of the electric grid in advance of an expected surge in demand from the move to increased use of electric power. This comes as FV car sales in the U. S. approach 5% of total, a historic level and what some experts see as a sign of bigger changes coming soon. 
Shore towns are seeking better ways to work with the state Department of Environmental Protection. Recent difficulties involving needed permits after the October nor’easter have produced tensions in the relationship.
The Spotted Lanternfly has finally arrived in Cape May County after traveling across the state from its initial infestation point in Pennsylvania. Municipalities are preparing for the pest which can be of particular danger to agricultural crops.
The county Sheriff and local non-profits reach out to overdose victims and their families. The result is an Overdose Response Team, running a pilot program in Lower Township. 
luxury hotel is coming to Wildwood. A developer’s plan for a $17 million 75 room facility gained support from the Wildwood Planning and Zoning Board.
Spout Off of the Week
SEA ISLE CITY — How do supporters of Orsted’s Ocean Wind project reconcile the fact that Orsted is a foreign company depriving citizens a voice in a project that will severely impact them? Shouldn’t all stakeholders in a project of this magnitude have a voice? Orsted is taking the path of easiest convenience for their financial bottom-line and has been able to foist its plan on the county immune from scrutiny. I’m all for renewable energy, but a solution exists for the concern about degrading the visual beauty of our ocean: Orsted should absorb the expense and place the giant structures further out to sea.
Read more or submit your own at spoutoff.cmcherald.com.

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