The Dune Debacle: destruction of a beach

observing new pond black and white

Observing the new pond that was created as a result of beach replenishment, Dune building project on the beach of Margate, NJ.


Margate NJ is located on a barrier island just south of Atlantic City. Established in 1885, it has seen its share of storms including the most recent Hurricane Sandy. Fortunately most of the homes along the beach were not destroyed, mainly because there is a bulkhead and jetty system in place for protection.

After Hurricane Sandy in 2012 the Governor of NJ, Chris Christie, thought it would be a good idea to put dunes along the beach. The city of Margate, knowing their beach better then a politician in an office, did not want the dunes and sued the state to stop the project. Margate lost and the dune project was pushed through. As a consequence, the project was started at the beginning of the short 3  month tourist season and lasting until the end of the season.

The beach replenishment and adding dunes has become a nightmare for the residents and visitors of this small tourist town. Heavy pipes were brought in to pump sand from the ocean onto the beach 24 hrs a day. The once quiet beach town is now filled with the sound of construction. The ocean carries sound so it can be heard blocks away. The beaches were flat and smooth with soft, fine textured white sand. The sand at the water was packed tightly with just a little slope making walking barefoot for miles or jogging easy and pleasant. The new sand is course, dark and filled with  shell fragments. Beach replenishments and dunes cause a more drastic sloping of the beach area and often cliffs will develop as erosion occurs. In front of the dunes more sand was added. Although this could be looked at as a positive it mans that there is no longer water under the pier. If there is no water under the pier there will be no fish under the pier to fish.


Rusty pipe on Margate City, NJ beach

Rusty pipes run the length of the beach in Margate City, NJ to deliver sand from the ocean to the new dunes being built by the Army Corp of Engineers.

Margate Fishing pier

The Margate Fishing pier in Margate, City, NJ is now on dry land due to the Dune project. There is no water below so there will be no fishing.


sand under the Margate Fishing Pier

Sand now exists where there once was water. The coast has been reconfigured taking away local recreation and tourism.


What was happening to the beach in front of the new dune was bad but not as bad as what was happening to the back side of the dune. The sand between the original bulkhead and the new dune berm was 5 feet above sea level. The Army corp of engineers dug that sand and used it to reinforce the back side of the berm. The new hight of the sand in that section now only 1/2 feet above sea level. Rains has no where to go and created large ponds the width of the new dune and a depth of 3 feet or more. The water will not percolate down and there are no openings for it to drain to the ocean. The bulkhead system also has scuppers or drain holes for the storm water from the streets to drain to the ocean and prevent flooding. Now the water from the street has no place to go. It drains into the ponds and the ponds are full so the streets are now flooding. The water in the ponds is stagnant and polluted with algae, bacteria, and runoff.

The access to the beaches are now limited. In the past there were steps at the end of each block to access the beach. Walkways over the new dune system have not been placed at each beach entry.  The only way to get to a walkway over the 25’ dune is to walk through the water or walk several blocks away.  Another concern is the access for the elderly, those with small children and those with disabilities. They are no longer able to just go over a few steps or ramp. They will also have to travel 150-200 feet before going over the 25’ dune and then another couple hundred feet to get to the ocean. Kayaks and Hobie-Cat sailboats are tied up and locked to the bulkhead. With the berm in place there is  no way to get them to the ocean. The walkways that are being built are only wide enough for a couple people.


lakes with algae behind dunes

Large lake filled with stagnant water, bacteria and algae blooms formed by digging down to sea level behind the new berm sand dune. When you dig to sea level there is no place for rain water to percolate.


Reflection of a beach home

Ditches were dug on the back side of the new berm and sand dune. The houses that once sat on the beach now sit on the edge of a polluted pool of water.


Margate Lakes behind Dunes in NJ

Access to the beach has been cut off by large bodies of water separating the entrance steps and the beach. The waster was over 2 feet deep in some places and filled with high bacteria levels and algae.


Keep off the dunes sign in Like Christy

Keep off the dunes sign floats in the water collected behind the dune berm.


No Swimming sign in Margate lake

Signs posted to keep beach goers and tourists from walking through the standing, bacteria filled water behind the new dunes in Margate, NJ leaving no beach access.


gottschall photography margate nj

The new view of the beach is now a polluted algae filled lake with a sand berm. You are no longer able to see the ocean and horizon from the entrance to the beach.


before and after sand comparison Margate beach

The sand on Margate City, NJ beaches was fine, soft and white. The dune replenishment project which pumps sand in from the ocean and places it on the beach is course, dark, and full of shells.


Margate City Beach Patrol lifeguard stand and boat

Margate City Lifeguard stand and boat are ready to protect a beach that is closed due to the beach replenishment project imposed by Governor Chris Christie.

Margate filed to stop the project stating irreparable harm. Business are reporting a 40% loss of income and the beaches are unusable since access is obstructed. The state court granted a stop but the case was then taken to federal court where the judge sided with the DEP and the Army Corp of Engineers allowing the project to continue.

The beach of Margate will never be the same. This isn’t just a beach.  This is where I grew up. This was my  front yard. This is where neighbors congregate and play. If the Army Corp of Engineers and Governor Chris Christie wanted to protect and help the  community, the money should have been put into reenforcing  and building up the bulkheads at the back bay. That’s where the flooding occurs. That’s where the most damage from Hurricane Sandy and the Nor-Easters came from.


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