“Wait, they’re still rebuilding?”
That’s what most say when I explain the progress made in rebuilding the Jersey Shore after Superstorm Sandy struck in October of 2012. Having been over three years ago, it is a natural reaction to have when one is told that officials are still working on the roads, and homeowners are still waiting to get back into their homes, many now raised on stilts.
I lived in Lavallette, New Jersey, essentially ground zero for Sandy, when the storm hit. Like almost everyone else, we evacuated a day or two before it came, thinking we would be back in a couple days, a week at the absolute most. It never entered our minds that our family would have to stay evacuated for over four months.
Many who do not live on the shore simply do not understand the amount of devastation that occurred. There were multi-million dollar houses in the middle of the highway. The roller coaster in Seaside Heights fell into the ocean. In Mantoloking, the ocean swallowed up the land, so that the bridge across Barnegat Bay became a bridge into the middle of the Atlantic. Utilities were torn to pieces. My family and I waited for hours in miles long car lengths waiting to get access to the barrier island that was our home to see if our house was actually still standing. Thankfully, it was.
What became a hot-button issue soon after the storm was whether or not the State had the right to force beachfront homeowners to sign easements allowing for dune construction on their property. While many signed the papers, believing it their duty to help protect themselves and fellow homeowners from future storms, others refused to budge.
The issue is still tied up in the courts. New Jersey State officials are trying to use eminent domain to build the dunes in an attempt to prevent the devastation that the public is still dealing with today.
Some homeowners claim that they have built better ways to protect their homes and property from ocean swells instead of the sand dunes that block ocean views and reduce property values.
As someone who experienced the destruction of Superstorm Sandy first hand, I know how important it is to ensure that coastal communities are protected from rising ocean tides. One point of breach in the sand wall and it can compromise an entire community with flooding. I encourage the homeowners and State officials to reach a compromise to inspect those measures put in place by property owners. Determine whether they are adequate in preventing the loss and damage that Sandy brought to our hometowns. If so, let them stay. But if not, those dunes need to be built.
It is not a matter of just whether one person’s property is protected. All the ocean needs is one beach front of 30-40 yards insufficiently protected to flood several blocks.
I know these communities. It makes zero sense for the State to build the ferris wheels and boardwalks that many fear by signing easements. They are mostly residential, small towns. But signing the easements will bring protection to shore communities.