The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is nothing if not consistent.  It seems that if they need to be vigilant, they’re not.  And if they need to be lenient, again they’re not.

Case in point.  Along the Delaware Bay in the Villas section of Lower Township, Cape May County, three homes and two utility poles are being threatened by beach erosion.  A combination of last year’s uncommonly excessive rainfall – 62 inches compared to the normal 44 – and windy, stormy conditions during some of those rain events has caused the Delaware River to eat away nearly 20 feet of 6-foot high dunes.

The homeowners submitted an emergency application to the NJDEP to build a seawall at their own expense.  That’s right, they’d pay for the thing themselves.

“No way”, was NJDEP’s reply.  You see, NJDEP is still hung up on beach replenishment.  So despite the fact that the murky, churning Delaware Bay is within five feet of the corner of one home, NJDEP wouldn’t budge.  They want sand put back to rebuild the dune.  Or else leave it alone and presumably some high tide will take out the homes.

Then a new problem arose.  The beach is owned by Lower Township, not the property owners.  Lower wasn’t about to foot the bill, so they turned to good old FEMA – the Federal Emergency Management Agency – to fund the beach replenishment.  Who knows how long that bureaucracy of red tape will take?  Plus, they fund beaches on the Atlantic Ocean side of the county, where tourists flock.  The only flock on this beach are red knots, laughing gulls, sandpipers, and such.

But the issue, in reality, is that NJDEP dropped the ball in the beginning.  Their mission – since they became the country’s third DEP back on the original Earth Day on April 22, 1970 –  is to “manage natural resources and solve pollution problems”.  What better way to manage this resource than to let the property owners install a bulkhead, then storms and natural sediment movement will put a beach back, gratis.  Everybody gets what they want.

But that’s common sense, a term that usually can’t be used in the same sentence as NJDEP.

– Mountain Man and City Girl