Credit: Richard Perry/The New York Times
On the New Jersey barrier islands, a proposed dune construction and restoration project, which would be implemented by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is bogged down in the effort to get authorization from beachfront property owners. The Corps won't proceed with the project unless every property owner signs an easement granting certain rights to the government. But a few holdout owners are refusing to sign.
The Newark Star-Ledger has a video and text report on the controversy ("Ledger Live video: Jersey shore dune battle rages even after Hurricane Sandy," by Brian Donohue). John McDonough, who owns most of the real estate in the bungalow community of Ocean Beach (homeowners lease the land for their cottages from McDonough's company), is one of the holdouts. He told the Star-Ledger: "We don't feel that we need the dunes larger than what we have. We feel that the width of the beach is more important than how high the dune is ... I think we have a problem with giving private property to the government."
Meanwhile, in upscale Southampton, New York, on the east end of Long Island, homeowners are putting up more than just dunes, the New York Times reports ("Dispute in Hamptons Set Off by Effort to Hold Back Ocean," by Michael Schwirtz).
"Soon after Hurricane Sandy hit last fall, Joshua Harris, a billionaire hedge fund founder and an owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, began to fear that his $25 million home on the water here might fall victim to the next major storm," the Times writes. "So he installed a costly defense against incoming waves: a shield of large metal plates on the beach, camouflaged by sand." Millionaire and billionaire neighbors have taken similar measures.
The structures are legal, and have passed town review, the Times reports. But officials are concerned. Southampton mayor Mark Epley told the Times, "When I first saw them, I was very taken aback." And coastal geologist Robert Young, a consultant to the town, says that while sea walls will protect the high end homes and their private lots, they may sacrifice the public beach in the process. Hard structures worsen beach erosion, he explained, saying: "If you build a structure like that, the beach is going to disappear. The sea wall is not there to protect the beach. It is there to protect the property behind the beach."