Another Beach Bailout?

Why is U.S. funding N.J. sand replenishment?

The dunes at Harvey Cedars have been especially susceptible to erosion in recent years. Sand fences provide some help, but Mother Nature has a way of taking its course.
Photo by Mary Godleski/Associated Press.

Let me get this straight. Voters in New Jersey and across the country are sick and tired of government bailouts. We want taxes cut and we are convinced that government has become too intrusive in our lives.  We want the bailouts to end and our tax dollars to be spent in a more prudent and economical fashion. Everyone agrees that government waste has to end.

Then again, if you have a home or business at the Jersey shore, you might see things a little differently, because once again New Jersey’s political leaders, particularly our Congressional delegation from Monmouth, Ocean, Cape May, and Atlantic counties, are pressing the Army Corps of Engineers and the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, to spend hundreds of millions of tax dollars to subsidize sand-replenishing projects.

The beaches at the Jersey Shore have been shrinking for years.  If you are like me and you hit the Shore on a regular basis, you’ve seen it for yourself.  Beach erosion causes people to have their blankets and chairs just inches away from someone they’d rather not be that close to and puts oceanfront homes and businesses at risk. 

New Jersey is the national leader in federally subsidized beach projects.  Our state has received about $450 million to pump sand along our coast since 1985.  Federal tax dollars represent 65 percent of all the money spent replenishing sand in New Jersey.  That means, if you live in Iowa or Texas, you are supporting beach erosion projects in Ocean City and Beach Haven.

It strikes me as hypocritical. What’s worse, beach erosion projects are a colossal waste of tax dollars.  Every time a big storm hits, we lose another chunk of the beach. And that is the way Mother Nature intended it.  Sand washes out to the sea.

Think about this. On April 15, there were huge so-called “tea parties” across the country, including right here in the over-taxed Garden State, where thousands of people got together to say, “enough is enough, no more government bailouts, no more boondoggles, and no more pet projects funded with our hard-earned tax dollars.”  But I didn’t hear anyone in that irate audience or at the microphone complain about all the federal dollars from other parts of the country coming into New Jersey so that sand can be pumped on to our beaches.

Environmentalists have long said that these beach erosion projects are a sham and irresponsible on many levels.  According to Dery Bennett, who heads the American Littoral Society in Sandy Hook, “The funding [for beach replenishment projects] should be more local if the towns and people in these towns want it.  They could come up with a bigger share of the expense.”

That’s the way I see it.  I love the Jersey shore—what’s left of it.  But who are we kidding?  When most folks criticize government spending and so-called bailouts, what they really mean is that they don’t want to see the government spend tax dollars on projects that do not benefit them.

In reality, when it comes to government spending, we want it both ways.  What one person calls a wasteful government subsidy or welfare initiative, another calls a valuable beach-replenishment project. In fact, what’s been going on at the Jersey Shore for decades is nothing more than a massive, wasteful, and irresponsible bailout of our beaches. At deadline, the funding was the subject of intense debate in Washington. Please e-mail me at [email protected] and tell me what you think about this issue.

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