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Attorney Asks Judge to Halt Margate Dunes Project Until Lawsuit is Decided

Posted on November 1, 2016

By Nanette LoBiondo GallowayShoreNewsToday

The attorney for five Margate beachfront property owners who are suing the Army Corps of Engineers and the New Jersey DEP to stop the Absecon Island dunes project filed a civil action Friday asking the court to order the defendants to show cause why the project should not be halted until the matter is resolved.

Jordan M. Rand of Dilworth Paxson LLP filed the action Oct. 28, the day before the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Sandy.

If Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez signs the order, it would prevent the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from proceeding with the Absecon Island Coastal Storm Risk Reduction Project until the drainage issues cited by the plaintiffs are addressed.

The Army Corps last week received bids from two dredging companies seeking a contract on the project – Weeks Marine of Covington, Louisianna, and Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company of Oak Brook, Illinois.

According to Army Corps spokesman Stephen Rochette, Weeks Marine bid $76.1 million for the base bid and all options, while Great Lakes, the low bidder on the previous round of bids, bid $77.8 million. A contract has not been awarded.

The low bid came in $35.8 million more than Great Lakes’ bid in 2014, but includes additional work, including renourishment in Atlantic City and Ventnor, and work on outfall pipes, Rochette said. The Army Corps estimated the cost for all the work to be $80 million.

The plaintiffs are Margate taxpayers Steven Erlbaum, Frank Binswanger Jr., John Turchi, David Boath and Ron Cohen, who said the project would create drainage problems and substantial flooding at their homes during storms, as well as create public health issues, such as breeding mosquitos that carry the Zika virus.

Attorneys for the state and Army Corps will have 35 days to answer the order, once it is accepted by the judge, or the court could deem them in default and provide relief to the property owners.

“The taxpayers respectfully request that this court enjoin the defendants from proceeding until they do what they have testified in this court that they would do – fix this problem,” the brief states.

Rand called the state’s and Army Corps’ refusal to consider an alternative fix “baffling.”

Rand notes that the city of Margate met with the state and Army Corps Aug. 23 to present an alternative plan prepared by city engineer Ed Walberg that he said would alleviate the drainage problem. The cost of installing drainage pipes would be about $9 million and would have to be done before the dunes are built.

Any water that collects behind the dunes will percolate into the sand within 24 hours, U.S. Army Corps project manager Keith Watson said at a press conference Friday, Sept. 2 on the Ventnor boardwalk.

He said there would be more surface area behind the dunes and depending on the location, the percolation area could be between 25 and 150 feet wide. However, the city would have to continue maintaining the beach as it does now, including raking the percolation area, or problems could arise, he said.

After Margate’s unsuccessful attempt to stop the project, which caused a two-year delay, the Army Corps issued a second request for bids without making any revisions to the plan. That’s what prompted the homeowners to file the lawsuit, Rand said.

“While the Army Corps revised the project bidding documents three times, it failed to address the drainage problem in Margate,” he states in the brief.

The project includes renourishment of dunes previously built in Atlantic City and Ventnor, and construction of a new berm and dune system in Margate, Longport and an eighth-mile section in south Ventnor.

According to Rochette, the design template includes a 200-foot wide berm and dune at elevation 14.75 in Atlantic City, and a 100-foot wide berm and dune at elevation 12.75 feet in Ventnor, Margate and Longport.

Source: ShoreNewsToday

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