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NJ - Erosion woes sets stage for fight between North Wildwood and DEP

NORTH WILDWOOD — Compared to the west coast of Florida, Jersey shore communities had it easy when what was left of Hurricane Ian passed by, bringing flooded roads and derailing weekend plans.

Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel, Captiva and other Florida communities face a long, difficult recovery from the late September storm, one of the strongest hurricanes to ever make landfall in the Sunshine State.

In the Garden State, the biggest hit was erosion, ranging from lost beach to deep cuts in the dune systems of multiple communities. In Avalon and Stone Harbor, some beach paths now end in 10- to 15-foot drop to the beach.

In North Wildwood, the situation seems particularly dire, with a significant section of dune swept away at 15th Avenue.

“It’s really bad. The dune is about 75% gone,” said North Wildwood Mayor Pat Rosenello.

There is a sheer, 10-foot cliff on one side, what beach engineers refer to as a scarp. The city has asked for emergency authorization to flatten that out and to place concrete barriers, often described as “Jersey barriers,” along the road.

North Wildwood also wants emergency authorization to construct a steel bulkhead in that area.

For years, the city has seen intense erosion in its north end, where North Wildwood trucks in new sand from Wildwood and Wildwood Crest each year only to see it wash away by the next storm.

But in that area, there are already rocks and a bulkhead protecting the road and the town.

“At 15th, there’s nothing behind the dune except the city,” Rosenello said.

One winter nor’easter, Rosenello said, and that dune will likely be washed away.

He added that the city is not going to wait for the OK from the state Department of Environmental Protection, potentially setting up a fight between the city and the state.

“We’re moving forward with the project. We have no choice,” Rosenello said last week. “I’m not sure what the status is of the emergency authorization, but we’re moving forward with or without it.”

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