Images of the destruction from Hurricane Sandy at areas along the Jersey Shore are familiar to many. But some areas of the state have suffered damage that has gone somewhat unnoticed. Downe Township Mayor Bob Campbell told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he believes his community, which is located on the bay, is being treated differently than those municipalities along the ocean. He also said bay shore communities are at great risk to storms right now because they are not protected and he fears they will become extinct if they don’t receive an additional $2 million to $3 million for recovery.
Finding the right help has been a challenge, according to Campbell. “There are so many different levels in government that are affecting the recovery process that the overlap has people a little bit dazed and confused about what direction to take,” he said.
Public assistance is available for municipal governments to rebuild roadways, replace bulkheads — protective barriers — and protect the infrastructure while individual assistance helps homeowners put back their bulkheads, which help protect the roads, Campbell explained. “Right now there are no bulkheads along the beach in front of the private homes … and when we get storm surges, the water’s coming through where the bulkheads used to be, under the homes and it’s affecting our infrastructure,” he said.
Campbell said he’s frustrated by what he believes is different treatment for his community. “When we’ve asked for emergency permits for our bay shore villages, … it seems to be we’re not entitled to these same emergency permits that they’re being afforded on the barrier islands,” he said.
When he has called the permitting agency to inquire why he can’t get the emergency permits, Campbell said he’s been told his community is in the Delaware Bay shore. “In spite of what Trenton tells me and others along the bay, my position is that we’re treated differently along the bay than they are along the ocean,” he said.
To try to rectify the situation, Campbell said he has been in contact with Lieutenant Gov. Kim Guadagno’s office trying to arrange for her to tour the bay shore communities, especially since she is involved in the economic development side of the recovery process. He said representatives of the DEP enforcement division and other officials participated in a tour last Friday.
Campbell estimates that the bay shore areas need $2 million to $3 million to recover in addition to the $1.5 million to $2 million they’ve already spent. If they don’t get the additional funds, Campbell worries the results will be disastrous.
“I’m afraid that the bay shores will eventually become extinct. It could happen any day. Right now we’re totally unprotected along the bay shore. If we get a severe winter storm, which we do get often, we’re dead in the water so to speak,” Campbell said.
The challenges he’s faced in the wake of Hurricane Sandy are partly responsible for Campbell’s decision to declare his candidacy for a state Senate seat. “Part of it is that I’ve been spending a lot of time — probably more time than a lot of the rural mayors do — in Trenton. I’m on the legislative review committee for the New Jersey League of Municipalities and also the Conference of Mayors,” he said. “So I spend quite a bit of time up in Trenton working with the legislators and the different legislation trying to be put through.”