Dunes vs. views and protection from future storms

Updated: July 25, 2013 at 12:00 AM

NJToday’s Lauren Wanko reports from Harvey Cedars, NJ and host Rafael Pi Roman speaks with Former commander of the New York District Army Corps of Engineers Ret. Col. John Boulé.

Sand dunes have been credited with mitigating damage in several beachfront communities during Superstorm Sandy, but some residents still find them to be more of a nuisance than an asset. A New Jersey court recently ruled that one couple may not receive compensation for their lost view:

Harvey Cedars officials are calling it a win for the Ocean County community. The state’s highest court this morning ruled oceanfront homeowners Harvey and Phyllis Karan may not receive $375,000 in compensation for property seized for a federal beach replenishment project, an enormous sum, compared to the $300 Harvey Cedars initially offered to compensate the Karans for their “lost view.”

“We are really very pleased and… what we thought would be the ruling early on, but we know that the court process takes time,” said Mayor Jon Oldham.

The three-year legal battle began in 2010 when the Army Corps began a beach replenishment project in Harvey Cedars.

“We got 95 percent of our easements and three years ago we went to eminent domain,” Oldham said. “We took the right to go onto people’s property to put sand on it to protect them.”

Read the full NJToday story here.

Ret. Col. John Boulé, vice president of Parsons Brinckerhoff, one of the city’s largest engineering firms, and former commander of the New York District Army Corps of Engineers, agrees with the verdict reached by the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

“It was great to see the court legally demonstrate the value of dunes which us engineers and planners already knew,” he said. “…In places like the Rockaway[s] and Coney Island and the south shore of Staten Island, dunes are probably the solution, the green solution interestingly, for the city to reduce damage from this year’s storms.”

Boulé says it is also possible, although expensive, to protect dense areas like lower Manhattan.

“I see the three biggest challenges being one, political will to do it, because this is going to be a long fight. This is going to be a fight that has to go through several administrations at every level of government. The second one being resources. Although the Congress appropriated about $60 billion in the Sandy supplemental, you’re going to need to invest more money to finish these coastal defenses. And thirdly there will be some regulatory hurdles that need to be gotten over in order to put these defenses in place.”

While the process of fortifying the region against storms like Sandy will be an ongoing and long-term one, there are things that can be done immediately to guard against storms that may arrive during the current hurricane season.

Boulé said that adding sand to eroded area beaches, which the Corps is already doing, is one way to immediately bolster defenses. Another is honing emergency response and emergency preparation systems in the wake of Sandy to reduce future damage and loss of life.


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