By Lauren Wanko
Bay Head homeowner Robert Hein won’t sign the easement required for the Army Corps beach replenishment project, along with other oceanfront homeowners. The state needs 124 easements in Bay Head. So far they’ve received one. Hein says he’s not against the project, which includes constructing 22-foot high sand dunes along the coast.
“It’s the perpetual easement portion that takes two-thirds of my lot and turns it into a state of New Jersey public beach who will then turn it over to the municipality forever with minimal to no compensation. That’s where I have a problem,” Hein said.
A Department of Environmental Protection spokesperson tells NJTV News the Army Corps project is about protecting residents not transforming private beaches into public ones. And the signed easements would allow the Army Corps the ability to construct and maintain the dunes and beach replenishment work.
“That’s really not true. The easement is very specific. It says the property that is signed under the easement will become public forever,” said Hein.
Hein insists taxpayers would ultimately shoulder the cost of maintaining the beaches. Bay Head’s beach front is private. The beach is open to the public with the purchase of beach badges during the summer. Hein maintains a 26-foot high sand dune on his property and credits a rock revetment, built along most of Bay Head’s beach after the 1962 nor’easter, with offering some protection against Sandy. Soon after the Superstorm Hein says some homeowners extended that wall by constructing a similar structure along their beachfront in the southern end of town.
Hein and other homeowners have pooled their own money to construct a protective rock revetment they say will join the existing wall. Work is expected to begin on that project later this month.
“That will cover the entire town of Bay Head,” Hein said. “We’re offering the chance for the government to save money. We’re saying you don’t need to do it here”
The oceanfront homeowner doesn’t think the Army Corps beach replenishment project will provide the town any significant additional protection. And Hein doesn’t think there will be funding available in the future for the necessary maintenance. The DEP disagrees. A spokesperson says there’s a long history of the Army Corps maintaining beaches. The DEP spokesperson says Bay Head could hold up the beach replenishment project. The Corps won’t complete the work without signed easements from every coastal community.
“We’ve already got the dunes you can tie in and either end of Bay Head and have the continuous line,” Hein said.
Bay Head’s mayor tells NJTV News his position has never changed. He’s won’t entertain eminent domain or condemnation, adding he won’t be an agent of the DEP. Meantime the DEP intends to get the easements for all the properties needed for this project by whatever legal means necessary says the spokesperson. The agency expects the Army Corps project to begin by December or January.