Politics & Policy

War at the Shore: Margate 1, Chris Christie 1/2

Duneboggle's first battle ends with a crucial delay for a shore town.

The Absecon Island town of Margate won an extension Thursday of its restraining order against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s environmental apparatus. A U.S. district judge in Camden also suggested from the bench that Christie should give up efforts at summary seizure of the town’s beaches for his Duneboggle plan. The extension to December 17 makes it less likely that the state will meet its goal of completing contracts and digging up the beaches by January.

Although Christie’s scheme to build a statelong “wall” of dunes along the discontinuous Jersey shore is being challenged up and down the coast, Margate is to date the only municipality that has challenged the project, spurred by a widely popular 2013 ballot measure and a subsequent referendum in November authorizing the city to take the dunebuilders to court.

The town of about 8,400 year-round residents located about two miles south of Atlantic City argues that artificial dunes would ruin its beaches and that a citywide system of bulkheads has prevented catastrophic oceanside damage in all recorded storms, including 2012’s Sandy. Absecon Island has historically been more vulnerable to flooding from its landward bay — a vulnerability made especially clear during Sandy — yet Christie’s remediation plan (which is being imposed along the length of the Jersey Shore, a region that includes both the mainland beaches of the northern coast and the network of barrier islands and marshy bays down south) includes no efforts to beef up bayside protection.

According to observers in the court Thursday, United States district judge Renee Marie Bumb, in addition to extending the restraining order, suggested that Christie’s Department of Environmental Protection would be better off pursuing its efforts to seize Margate’s beaches through standard eminent-domain takings with compensation. Christie has been relying on a series of emergency orders aimed at “recalcitrant” property owners, which have led the DEP to pursue a novel legal theory that it can take control of the property through easements rather than condemnation and seizure, and that it can also seize the land prior to determining and paying fair market value to its owners.

As National Review Online reported in November, the flat town is fighting an uphill battle, but Margate appears to have been on solid legal ground in its Thursday court appearance. The defendants filed a 52-page response shortly before the scheduled hearing. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Amy S. Rosenberg, the state attorney general’s office then requested special permission from the court, arguing that any further delay would interfere with the state’s efforts to “properly protect its citizens from future catastrophes.”

— Tim Cavanaugh is news editor of National Review Online. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Most Popular

Culture

Cold Brew’s Insidious Hegemony

Soon, many parts of the United States will be unbearably hot. Texans and Arizonans will be able to bake cookies on their car dashboards; the garbage on the streets of New York will be especially pungent; Washington will not only figuratively be a swamp. And all across America, coffee consumers will turn their ... Read More
National Security & Defense

The Warmonger Canard

Whatever the opposite of a rush to war is — a crawl to peace, maybe — America is in the middle of one. Since May 5, when John Bolton announced the accelerated deployment of the Abraham Lincoln carrier group to the Persian Gulf in response to intelligence of a possible Iranian attack, the press has been aflame ... Read More
Immigration

The Merit of Merit-Based Immigration

Having chain-migrated his way into the White House and a little bit of political power, Donald Trump’s son-in-law is shopping around an immigration plan. And if you can get past the hilarious juxtaposition of the words “merit-based” and “Jared Kushner,” it’s a pretty good one. As things stand, the ... Read More
NR Webathon

We’ve Had Bill Barr’s Back

One of the more dismaying features of the national political debate lately is how casually and cynically Attorney General Bill Barr has been smeared. He is routinely compared to Roy Cohn on a cable-TV program that prides itself on assembling the most thoughtful and plugged-in political analysts and ... Read More
Film & TV

Game of Thrones: A Father’s Legacy Endures

Warning! If you don't want to read any spoilers from last night's series finale of Game of Thrones, stop reading. Right now. There is a lot to unpack about the Thrones finale, and I fully understand many of the criticisms I read on Twitter and elsewhere. Yes, the show was compressed. Yes, there were moments ... Read More