North Wildwood, NJ — The scenic beach town of 5,000 residents, growing to 50,000 during its peak season of summertime, has taken matters into its own hands fighting beach erosion and the mayor is leading the way. Mayor Patrick Rosenello (D), has claimed that New Jersey’s governor and chief environmental official are “directly responsible” for neglecting North Wildwood’s erosion issues. However, state representatives counter, asserting their dedication to realizing a long-intended beach protection initiative.
For years, North Wildwood has faced challenges from erosion, rising sea levels, and severe storms mostly on its own, whereas other coastal towns have witnessed their beaches rejuvenated.
“It’s easy to sit in Trenton and talk about these things,” Rosenello told the Washington Post, referring to New Jersey’s capital. “But here’s a real-world resilience project that his administration can’t get done…We’ve spent an enormous amount of money, and they’ve done nothing.”
Situated at the edge of a barrier island and influenced by the shifting sands of the nearby Hereford Inlet, North Wildwood has constantly faced erosion. In 2006, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed a sea wall construction at the town’s northern end. Furthermore, a joint beach restoration initiative began in 2009, involving both the state of New Jersey and North Wildwood.
However, the last ten years have seen numerous storms compromise the city’s protective measures. While some storms like Sandy, Irene, Jonas, and Ian were named, many were nor’easters that diminished dunes and reduced the remaining beach.
Since 2013, North Wildwood has placed vinyl and steel bulkheads in areas where beach dunes had dwindled, leaving nearby infrastructure vulnerable. While the city informed state authorities of these measures, they proceeded without waiting for formal approval.
Every winter, North Wildwood also transported vast quantities of sand from adjacent towns, trusting that the federally-supported replenishment project approved post-Hurricane Sandy would materialize. However, after extended postponements, the project’s commencement is now set for 2025.
The town is requesting a reimbursement of $21 million, money spent out-of-pocket by the town on unsuccessful efforts to restore the beach and coastlines. Additionally, state authorities have imposed over $8.5 million in fines on North Wildwood for its record of unapproved activities on the beachfront.
“They broke the law…It’s not retaliatory. It’s just the way that it works,” Shawn LaTourette, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, said to the Washington Post. “No other community in the state has done this. Not to this degree.”
Since Hurricane Sandy devastated the Jersey Shore, North Wildwood stands as one of the final communities awaiting beach replenishment. However, such endeavors have been continuous along one of the country’s most densely populated coastlines.
North Wildwood resident Michael Galioto along with his wife, owns the Northwind Motel in town. Galioto has expressed gratitude for the erected bulkheads over the years even if it was done without the states’ permission. “We may be beachfront property if that weren’t the case,” he said to the Washington Post.
Robert Del Monte, resident and owner of the Matador Oceanfront Resort, expressed his concern for the beach and the impending erosion. “This beach has really taken a beating,” Del Monte said to the Washington Post. “We can’t wait. One bad storm and we could be in a lot of trouble.”
“My frustration is not personal,” said Rosenello to the Washington Post. “It’s just that they are the people running these huge bureaucracies that cannot get this done.”