By Lauren Wanko
One Margate City resident insists a bulkhead is one of the main reasons the Army Corps dune and beach replenishment project shouldn’t happen in the beach town.
“We have a structurally sound bulkhead system that has been very productive over the years. We feel that it’s stronger than a dune, a wall of dunes, that could easily wash away in a storm,” said Sharon Simon, MCQBP.org (Margate Citizens Questioning the Beach Project) secretary.
“The governor has said he wants wall to wall dunes in the state, 127 miles of dunes. The issue becomes a little complicated in Margate,” said Mayor Michael Becker.
An ordinance issued in 2001 requires that Margate residents vote on issues involving dune projects. This past November, nearly 65 percent of residents voted against the Army Corps project in a non-binding referendum. The mayor and Margate’s commissioners sent a resolution to the Department of Environmental Protection requesting to be removed from the Army Corps project because of the referendum.
“Commissioner Martin sent us a very strong letter back that that was not gonna happen and basically said that if the city does not cooperate, the state will come in and take control of the beaches,” said Becker.
The mayor and the Margate commissioners voted unanimously to request a meeting with DEP Commissioner Bob Martin to discuss their concerns.
A DEP spokesperson tells NJTV News the commissioner has been in communication with the mayor of Margate. They haven’t had an opportunity to talk one on one. A one-on-one conversation is exactly what the grassroots community organization Margate Citizens Questioning the Beach Project are hoping for.
“There was a referendum here and I think the citizenry spoke and I think it’s incumbent upon the commission and the state to listen to the people of Margate,” said Daniel Gottlieb, co-executive director of MCQBP.
But not everyone opposes the dunes.
“During Sandy, three bulkheads were destroyed. So I don’t believe that that’s the most important way to protect our beaches,” said Margate resident Ann Pancoast.
“If you have a storm, anything there to protect the environment could get damaged or property because that’s its job, it’s there to protect it,” said Simon.
The mayor worries how the Army Corps project will impact the historic fishing pier.
“If they have a beach replenishment project, that pier will be on top of sand and not on top of water,” said Becker.
Drainage issues are also a concern.
“We have a definite drainage issue as our city streets slope toward the beach and the water would be trapped behind the dunes and would have nowhere to escape,” said Gottlieb.
The mayor hopes once the DEP receives the letter, the commissioner will agree to meet quickly to discuss the issue.