• Before (top) and after (bottom) images, taken by Tim Larsen, Chief of Photography for the New Jersey Governor's Office, show an Ortley Beach, N.J., scene in the days after Sandy and six months later. Recovery in the hard-hit neighborhood has been hard and slow.

    Credit: Tim Larsen

    Before (top) and after (bottom) images, taken by Tim Larsen, Chief of Photography for the New Jersey Governor's Office, show an Ortley Beach, N.J., scene in the days after Sandy and six months later. Recovery in the hard-hit neighborhood has been hard and slow.

At a packed town meeting on Long Beach Island on the Jersey Shore, Governor Chris Christie told children in the audience to "cover your ears" before he delivered his opinion on the beachfront homeowners who are fighting a protective dune project in the state. "Let me use an indelicate word," he said, according to a Star-Ledger report on the April 30 meeting ("Gov. Christie says N.J. will build dune system in Sandy's wake," by Ryan Hutchins).

Homeowners have argued that if they sign easements to allow dunes, the next step may be a commercialized boardwalk, and public bathrooms and showers on their land. The governor's response? "Bullshit," said Christie. "That's what it is. That's the excuse they use. Here's why they're really concerned: They don't want their view blocked." And his plan? "We are building these dunes, okay?" Christie said. "We are building these dunes whether you consent or not. It's no longer a debate."

For more info on what the dunes will look like and how they will function if Christie has his way, the Star-Ledger interviewed Stewart Farrell, a professor of marine geology at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey ("The nuts and bolts of Jersey's great wall: A Q&A on dunes," by Jim Namiotka). "It will be taller than the Berlin Wall and parts of the Great Wall of China, and as wide as a football field," according to the report.

"The plan for Long Beach Island and northern Ocean County is for a dune, the summit of which goes to 22 feet — that's elevation, not a height. The dune will be 15.25 feet higher than the beach in front of it," said Farrell. "The crest of the dune at 22 feet will be 25 feet wide — basically a two-lane highway at the top. The width of the beach varies from 100 to 200 feet wide, depending on the specific municipal location." Then, at the edge of the ocean, comes the "berm crest," where the flat beach begins to slope toward the surf.

Will it work? Well, says Farrell, the dune may not stop flooding, but it will keep the waves out. Had the system been in place when Sandy struck last fall, he says, "Ortley Beach would still be there. Mantoloking would not have had a breach. Holgate would still have its dunes."

In fact, when Sandy struck, every house in Mantaloking was either severely damaged or destroyed. And six months after the storm washed on shore in Ortley Beach, significant portions of the neighborhood's oceanfront still lie in ruins.