Wildwood’s Army Corps dune project moving to next phase

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WILDWOOD – A multimillion-dollar Army Corps dune project seems to be moving forward, officials in the Wildwoods said.

A letter from Bob Martin, commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection, states that the initial feasibility study has been approved by the state and will move forward “into a more detailed design and engineering phase.”

“I know you still have concerns about the details,” the letter, addressed to Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. states. “However, knowing the enhanced protection that the future project will provide, I look forward to working with the USACE and Wildwood to satisfy those concerns.”

The $22 million project calls for building a dune that is 16 feet above sea level from North Wildwood to Lower Township, as well as creating a 75-foot beach berm in North Wildwood that would be 6.5 feet above sea level. The berm and dune would be constructed by taking the beaches in Wildwood and Wildwood Crest about 200 to 250 feet back from the current shoreline, and back passing sand from beaches in those municipalities in North Wildwood.

Troiano, who first openly opposed the project, said that he is willing to work with the DEP and Army Corps to come to some sort of compromise. His largest concerns were the height of the dunes, which he says would be higher than the city’s boardwalk, making Wildwood’s beach smaller. The city has been working for years to bring more events and activities to the beaches and Troiano said he was concerned that if the beaches were smaller there wouldn’t be room for them.

“We’re willing to sit down and try to address our problems,” Troiano said Tuesday. “We need some of our needs addressed, but if they aren’t going to address our need, then our position will be the same as before.”

In Wildwood Crest, commissioners there were divided about the project moving forward when they reviewed the letter at their last meeting April 30.

Mayor Carl Groon said that the letter seemed to express that the borough “was getting a 16-foot dune whether we like it or not.”

While Wildwood Crest did not openly oppose the project the way officials in Wildwood had, borough officials had not supported it either. They had penned a letter pinpointing concerns and questions to the Army Corps and DEP, but did not take a position on the proposed project.

North Wildwood City Council passed a resolution supporting the plan earlier this year.

In the Crest, Commissioner Don Cabrera said that the borough should work harder to make sure the project, as proposed, does not go through.

The borough was also concerned about dune height, but had other apprehensions about the project as well. Cabrera pointed to access for those who use a wheelchair over the dunes, as well as blocked views and maintenance of the dunes.

“I think we should be prepared for a fight,” he said.

Commissioner Joyce Gould disagreed. She was concerned that if the borough did not support the project, the DEP and Army Corps would be less willing to work with Wildwood Crest in the future.

“I’d rather have my view blocked than my house destroyed,” she said at the meeting.

Groon said at that time that the borough would work with its engineer to determine the next step to take.

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