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July 21, 2015

Those New Jersey beachfront-property owners who are hoping they can forestall coastal dune projects are going to have to provide easements fast or go to court. The state has initiated eminent domain proceedings against 244 property owners seeking a total 388 easements.

About 90 percent of beachfront owners have agreed to the easements -- which total 4,279 -- in order for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct coastal-protection projects now underway. But there are still holdouts. So the state Department of Environmental Protection and attorney general’s office have announced they have filed their first eminent domain action in Ocean County court. It involves a property in Ocean City.

The bulk of the remaining easements are in northern Ocean County; ironically, the area hardest hit by Sandy. Of the 326 outstanding easements needed there, 123 are in Bay Head and 68 are in Point Pleasant Beach, according to the state DEP.

Some homeowners thought they would be well compensated for the easements but that idea disappeared last year after a couple who had been fighting the borough of Harvey Cedars for years was awarded only $1 by the state Supreme Court for their easement, saying they weren’t entitled to a windfall for a project that would protect the community. Since then, most homeowners have voluntarily signed over the easements.

Last year, the Army Corps of Engineers, in partnership with the DEP, completed eight post-Sandy beach-repair projects, returning roughly 45 miles of previously engineered and constructed beaches along the New Jersey coast to their original protective construction design at a cost of $345 million.

The Army Corps and DEP are currently undertaking a $128 million beach-and-dune construction project on Long Beach Island; a $57.6 million beach-and-dune project in southern Ocean City, the Strathmere section of Upper Township, and Sea Isle City in Cape May County; and a $38.2 million project to build beaches and improve infrastructure in the areas of Loch Arbour, Allenhurst, and Deal in Monmouth County.

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