New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed an executive order to speed the construction of sand dunes to protect its coast from storms over the objections of beachfront homeowners worried about losing their ocean views.
The order, which took effect Wednesday, directs the state attorney general to “immediately coordinate legal action” to acquire the easements necessary to build the barriers. It also creates an office within the state Environmental Protection Department to coordinate property acquisition.
Christie, a 51-year-old Republican, has staked his re- election in November on his handling of the state’s recovery from Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the state’s 127-mile shoreline on Oct. 29. The governor has pledged to use “every tool” at his disposal to force beachfront homeowner holdouts to sign easements to let the state build protective dunes.
“As we rebuild from Superstorm Sandy, we need to make sure we are stronger, more resilient and prepared for future storms, and dunes are a major component of this process,” he said in a statement. “We can no longer be held back from completing these critical projects by a small number of owners who are selfishly concerned about their view while putting large swaths of homes and businesses around them at risk.”
On Long Beach Island, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) north of Atlantic City, dunes constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were credited with preventing widespread disaster when Sandy struck. Homes that lacked the protection at the south end of the 18-mile-long barrier island were devastated.
In July, Christie estimated 1,400 homeowners hadn’t signed easements.
The issue led some beach towns to draw attention to the holdouts by publishing their names and addresses. In Surf City, on Long Beach Island, the owner of Anchor Produce posted a list of about 30 holdouts who “will be welcome to shop here as soon as their beach-replenishment easement has been signed.”
Christie’s order coincided with the settlement of a legal dispute involving Harvey and Phyllis Karan of Harvey Cedars, a borough on Long Beach Island that had objected to a jury’s award of $375,000 as compensation for building a 22-foot-high dune on the couple’s property. On July 8, the state Supreme Court overturned that award and ordered a new trial.
The matter was resolved with $1 compensation for the couple, according to a statement from acting Attorney General Jon Hoffman and environmental protection Commissioner Bob Martin.
Editors: Stacie Sherman, Pete Young
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