Proposed Dune Destruction And Sidewalk Project - Cape May, NJ
Proposed Dune Destruction And Sidewalk Project Along Beach Drive/Shore Drive, Blks. 559+, Lots 1+, Lower Township, Cape May County, New Jersey
Lower Township, Cape May County is proposing to construct a new sidewalk on Beach/Shore Drive along an existing dune that borders the roadway and the Bay. The dune would be destroyed on the land side for several feet with placement of sand on the water side “to maintain the same” dune configuration. The dune is a well-established and maturely vegetated dune, reportedly 50 years old. Homes, Beach/Shore Drive and other infrastructure are on the land side adjacent to the dune.
Delaware Riverkeeper Network opposes the dune destruction and reconfiguration, advocates for the mature dune to be left intact, with the existing sidewalk on the east side of the roadway to be used if a pedestrian and bike path is needed. Other alternatives are suggested and discussed in the letter DRN filed with the Cape May County Open Space Review Board. The letter was endorsed and supported by three other NJ organizations - NJ Sierra Club, Clean Water Action New Jersey and Environment New Jersey. The letter was filed July 19, 2017, prior to the meeting where the application submitted by Lower Twp. for $1.7 million dollars in funding is being considered by the Board. See link letter below.
There is substantial opposition from residents to the project – Save Our Shores NCM & Concerned Residents. The group’s website: https://www.facebook.com/SOSNorthCapeMayandTownBank/
The project has already been approved by the Township (according to Township meeting minutes from April 7, 2014). The proposal for the project has existed since 2010 and has been before the Township council. At the April 7, 2014 Township Meeting, A Resolution to Authorize a Grant Application to the Cape May County Open Space Program (Resolution 2014-109) was unanimously passed. DRN joined the residents of the area in 2014 to oppose the project and the project was shelved at that time.
The Township of Lower, Cape May County applied for a CAFRA Individual Permit and received said permit on January 17, 2014 for the Beach Drive Pedestrian Access Improvement Project. The aim of this project was described as: “to enhance pedestrian safety and improve the public access conditions” along Beach Drive and Shore Drive adjacent to the Delaware Bay. The project proposes to construct a public walkway and roadway upgrades for 1.5 miles along the Bay and dune.
The project proposal includes:
• 6 feet wide concrete sidewalk with curb for 1.5 mile long along dune side of road.
• Beach access at each street intersection along with marked pedestrian crosswalks.
• Improved roadway with 12 foot wide lanes in each direction and minimum 8 foot wide parking lane along the east side of the road.
• 2 existing stormwater outfalls will be removed, 4 outfalls replaced, and 2 new outfalls with catch basins will be constructed.
The public opposition the project has held it up so far but the project does have several needed permits. There are substantial issues related to environmental impacts, safety issues that are caused by the deconstruction and reconstruction of the dune, the lack of consideration for sea level rise and climate change effects, and related to FEMA and flooding that have not been addressed and a comprehensive environmental analysis is needed. These are outlined in the 7.19.17 letter below. The letter also examines technical issues related to the dune, vegetation of the dune, and the interface of the Bay, the dune and the built environment.
DRN considers the project not in compliance with Green Acres rules based on several issues, including the lack of an alternatives review. The lack of an alternatives analysis, the lack of demonstrated public need for this project, and the potential for substantial and long-lived negative impacts removes the rationale of open space funds being used to develop the project and also eliminates the justification for disruption of the existing established dune.
DRN considers the proposed project to be incompatible with the requirements for funding by the Open Space Review Board based on environmental impacts that are likely to occur and the lack of analysis that demonstrates how these expected impacts will be avoided. The Cape May County Open Space Trust was established to preserve open space and agricultural land. The trust is funded by a County property tax. In 2013, the program was expanded to include Park/ Recreation Development and Historic Preservation Projects. Municipalities, among other entities, are eligible to apply for funding for the development of lands acquired for recreation and conservation purposes. “Projects that will have a significant adverse impact on environmental resources or open space values” are considered ineligible to receive funding along with “soft costs” associated with engineering, architectural, survey, environmental analyses, etc. It is our opinion that the proposed project will have significant adverse impacts on environmental resources or open space values and is therefore ineligible to receive funding from the Board.