Councilman Chris Nelson Responds to Op Ed Recently Published in Star Ledger

Councilman Chris Nelson responded to an Op Ed recently published in the Star Ledger (Hurricane Sandy: The state’s steel wall is getting a rocky reception at the Shore)

Chris’ response is below:

Dear Mr. Mulshine:

I read your recent Op-Ed with great interest.  The Borough of Mantoloking is in dire need of protection.  Prior to Sandy, our dunes were indeed some of the best in the State— averaging 23 feet in height and thick with plantings.  Sandy changed all that.  Along with our dunes, we lost the majority of our ocean-front houses. Most of our dune sand now lies offshore.  Our current dune height now averages 16 feet with less than half of the pre-Sandy beach in front of it.  Despite our efforts to bolster the dunes with sand washed into the bay, we stand extremely exposed.

Need we forget that not one single square foot of property in our Borough was left untouched by Sandy. Route 35— the economic lifeblood of our part of the Shore was decimated.  Lives were and still are upturned.  Something needed to be done.  Immediately after the storm, Borough leaders met with Governor Christie and DEP Commissioner Martin.  A bold plan was drawn up to provide a two step approach to protecting our critical section of the barrier island:  utilizing a state of the art sheet metal barrier in conjunction with the Army Corps of Engineers beach restoration project.  The State did a great job securing Federal funding for a large portion of the project and set to make the project happen before disaster has the opportunity to strike again.  All that was needed to make this protection a reality was the easements from the oceanfront owners.  Of the 128 oceanfront lots in our Borough, all but a handful readily  signed the easement.  The reasonable folks that signed the easement witnessed firsthand what happened to communities that instituted the Army Corps replenishment project— lives, homes, business and the infrastructure that provides a means to provide tourism dollars and for us to make a living are protected.  A few folks in the minority of our little town, like Mr. Gusmer and Mr. Andruss, suggest that there are alternatives.  That grass has already been cut.  The Borough cannot afford it, the oceanfront owners in the southern part of town cannot and will not pay for it and, most importantly, we do not have time.  I have had the opportunity to speak with with every oceanfront owner in town personally.  Many of them are unable to even think about rebuilding, let alone being able to afford the nearly $200,000 worth of rocks per lot needed to buttress the Army Corps project as a project resiliency enhancement.  Due to lack of available funds, there would be massive holes in any rock barrier in the southern part of the Borough— this is obviously unacceptable, not only to the DEP, but to those that have witnessed what happens when there is a weak spot in the defense mechanism.   While the sheet metal project was being drafted by State engineers, we worked with our residents in the Northern section of the Borough to make sure that the privately funded rocks that now form a protective barrier complemented the impending State and Army Corps project.

With the sheet metal project scheduled to start in the near future and the Army Corps projected scheduled to start in the Fall people on the barrier island and those that barrier island protects will have the piece of mind needed to rebuild.  That rebuilding ultimately provides a larger tax base,which is good for the Borough, the County and the State.  The sheet metal and Army Corps project was not something that popped up overnight— it is a well thought out plan that has been discussed publicly numerous times, reviewed by respected engineers from the State and Federal government as well as those in academia.

Around this time last year, Mayor Nebel and I had the opportunity to walk down my street with Governor Christie and Prince Harry.  Prince Harry has seen quite a lot in his travels and his statement that he has never seen devastation like this really hit home with me.  Mr. and Mrs. Andruss’ efforts to raise funds for rocks is admirable.  Unfortunately, time is not on our side and to wait for money for rocks that will most likely never happen is criminal at worst, irresponsible at best.  I can look my wife, children, parents (Who live across the street) and neighbors in the eye and say without blinking that the Borough of Mantoloking has done all that it can to protect its residents safety and property.  Governor Christie and Commissioner Martin can do the same thing.  I often wonder how those that are critical of the sheet metal/Army Corps project, and are doing all that they can to slow this critical project down, would be able to look their neighbors in the eye if another event like Sandy occurred while waiting for rock money or negotiating beach easements.

Christopher R. Nelson

Councilman, Borough of Mantoloking