Major work to rebuild beaches in towns devastated by Hurricane Sandy four years ago is finally cleared to begin, according to local, state, and federal officials. The Asbury Park Press has the story here (see: "Ocean Co. dune project could start next year," by Jean Mike). The Toms River Patch also has a report (see: "Long-Awaited Dune Project Should Begin Next Spring, Army Corps Says," by Karen Wall).

"Residents of Ortley Beach, which suffered the most destruction during Sandy, have clamored for the dune project for months, protesting in Trenton to get the attention and support of state officials," the Patch reported. "Ortley Beach was one of the hardest-hit communities when Sandy roared ashore in October 2012," adds the Asbury Park Press: "All but 60 of the 2,600 homes in the oceanfront community were damaged by Sandy's surge. More than 200 of them were completely destroyed. Since the storm hit, the voters and taxpayers association has been lobbying strongly in favor of the beach replenishment project, participating in a rally in Trenton and holding a march in support of dunes last summer."

But a few beachfront owners have been holding out, refusing to agree to easements that the government needs in order to place sand between their property and the ocean. The state has resorted to increasingly aggressive legal moves to overcome the property owners' resistance. "In March, Superior Court Assignment Judge Marlene Lynch Ford ruled against 28 oceanfront property owners who had asked the judge to block the state Department of Environmental Protection's attempts to acquire a portion of their land to build bigger beaches," the Asbury Park Press reported. "The ruling helped pave the way for the beach replenishment project."

Beach restoration plans for some parts of the shore are still held up in court, however. That's frustrating for beach replenishment advocates: Governor Chris Christie said in June that "it's hard to believe he’s still discussing the issue 45 months since Sandy crushed the shore," reported local radio station WKXW 101.5 (see: "Dune fight: NJ filing eminent domain lawsuits against beachfront property owners," by Dino Flammia). “I never thought people would be that selfish and self-centered like the people in Point Pleasant Beach and Bay Head and Mantoloking who are holding out,” said Christie.

But some of the holdouts say they're not against shore protection — they just want to handle the job on their own. "Thom Ammirato, who represents the Bay Head Oceanfront Property Owners, said they shouldn’t be called selfish when they’re asking for nothing from the government," WKXW reported. “They pay for their own beach protection, and have done so since 1882, saving taxpayers millions of dollars,” Ammirato told the stations in an emailed statement. “How is that remotely construed as selfish?”