November 7, 2013 - Residents and visitors to Money Island this past week are surprised to see the amount of erosion under the Bayview Road bridge on Nantuxent Cove creek. A Bayview Road resident said that he can now only drive on the far left side, pointing out that holes in the pavement on the right side go down several feet to water level. One worried visitor who was considering buying a home on Bayview asked whether the bridge had been inspected recently. Bridge safety inspection is believed to be under the jurisdiction of Cumberland County rater than the township or the state. Neighbors were unaware of whether any county inspection had been completed recently.
The new damage was caused by the normal lunar tide cycles in October and early November and not the result of any severe storm. The Nantuxent Cove has water level rise of more than seven inches in the past decade according to NOAA reports.
Downe Township Mayor Campbell has been a strong advocate for repairs saying that we could become extinct without more financial aid from the state. "If we get a severe winter storm, which we do get often, we’re dead in the water so to speak,” Campbell said it a recent interview. It might not even take a severe storm to collapse the bridge. Ordinary pressure of currents in the elevated water level of recent years have washed away the supporting material under about 1/3 of the bridge. Repair of the bridge was estimated at $500,000 three years ago and replacement would cost more than $1 million. Unfortunately, a temporary sea wall build along Bayview Road after recent storms caused increased water flow and erosion to the bridge. Campbell blames the state for lack of cooperation. The state basically presumes that any bulkhead or structure that restricts water flow causes increased water flow and erosion to neighboring properties explains Tony Novak who has had similar issues dealing with the state. His organization BaySave works on environmentally friendly alternatives to address sea level rise that avoids the problems inherent to bulkheads and traditional seawalls.
October 29, 2013 - The first draft of the Downe Township Resource Directory is published on www.DowneTownshipNJ.com. Please send request for inclusions, comments or ideas to continue to build the directory.
Downe Township, Cumberland County and state officials at the grant ceremony in Newport NJ on October 6, 2009
This week marks four years since state and local officials met with Money Island residents to celebrate the awarding of a $543,500 grant to repair Bayview Road. At the ceremony Downe Township Mayor Renee Blizzard thanked Money Island residents for their persistence and specifically cited Bayview resident Tony Novak for his patience and long term support of the project. It seemed like a perfect example of grass roots activism resulting in government action. Yet four years later the bulkhead construction has not begun. So what happened? In 2010 Bayview resident and Downe Township committeeman Dennis Cook said that some of the money had to be used to pave part of the road beyond the repair area despite some of his neighbor's objections. Some Bayview Road residents wanted the road to remain unpaved and were disgruntled by the required paving. A temporary concrete block bulkhead was constructed and the area was surveyed several times but the actual bulkhead construction has not started. The project details were made available for public comment in the summer of 2013 and a contractor was selected for the job. The current project plans are significantly different from the concept sketches presented prior to the grant award ceremony in 2009. The township engineer explained that he was instructed to scale back the project due to limited funding and that alternate finding sources were not considered as far as he knew. Bayview resident Tony Novak asked the township officials and the state officers handling the project to clarify who was responsible for the cost of repairs to lots used by the marina adjacent to the project that suffered from increased erosion due to the temporary bulkhead. The township's attorney wrote that this was a DEP project and referred questions to that state agency. Meanwhile the DEP responded that their preliminary approval relied on the township's engineering study that did not mention the project was revised to leave some lots on Bayview unprotected. DEP rules presume that the construction of any new bulkhead increases stress and flooding risk on adjacent unprotected properties. Novak discussed possible solutions with the township engineer and the issue seemed close to resolution in July. Suddenly the engineer was advised to stop the negotiation and refer further questions to the township's attorney. Meanwhile, the marina suspended all reconstruction efforts in anticipation of the property's sale to a conservation group. The status of the bulkhead project was discussed at the August Money Island community meeting and it seems that everyone wants the project to move forward. Residents expressed support for Mayor Campbell's ongoing efforts to come up with a way to complete the project without damaging the adjacent unprotected lots.
9/6/2013 - The Friday Arts program on Channel 12 included a segment on the health benefits of Delaware Bay oysters.
9/5/2013 - The blue trailer on Nantuxent Road was demolished and hauled away this week. This is the most dramatic attempt at post Sandy recovery that we've seen yet. We look forward to seeing our neighbors rebuild. Other neighbors on the same street report having difficulty obtaining the permits necessary to rebuild.
7/30/2013 - Voices of America produced a video editorial coverage about Money Island's current struggle for sustainability. The video features comments by Mayor Bob Campbell, The American Littoral Society, The Nature Conservancy and our own hometown resident Bill Bowen. The may have contained a few minor inaccuracies but these did not distract from the overall nature of this well-balanced coverage. The video's statements like "in some poor coastal communities people are being urged to flee their homes and move inland" focus solely on residential issues and seem to miss the other half of Money Island story that it will remain an important working waterfront under the state's long term plans.
7/14/2013 - A local meeting will be held Saturday August 10 at 10 a.m. at the community room at the marina to discuss a number of issues facing our community.
The tentative agenda includes:
Residents are encouraged to share information on what they've learned on these and other issues. Since the Money Island association had not held a meeting since 2010 we should take this opportunity to elect new officers. Please consider offering your time to be an officer of the Money Island Community Association. All are welcome at the meeting. Light refreshments will be served.
5/21/2013 - Our immediate neighbors to the north and south announced acceptance of state buyout offers. Five homeowners in Gandy's Beach and a number of others in Baypoint entered into agreements with the NJ DEP Blue Acres program to sell within the next few months. The owners of Baypoint Marina announced that the marina will also close and be sold to the program. Gandy's Beach is located a mile south of Money Island and BayPoint is located about a mile north along the Delaware Bay shore. Although residents of Money Island have also requested state buyouts, those offers have not yet been accepted and it is not clear whether the state will use newly authorized funds from the federal government to expand the buyout program.
5/8/2013 - New Jersey issued proposed revisions to its land use rules that affects Money Island properties waterfront building, marinas, living shorelines, aquaculture and dune construction. An annotated copy of the new rules are available in PDF format here.
4/10/2013 - The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection issued a letter to Money Island Marina LLC stating that it is circulating a proposal to purchase 18 properties that make up Money Island Marina. The proposed sales price is $136,400 "as is" but the transaction can not be completed until the former owner's bankruptcy case is closed later in 2013. The properties were purchased by Money Island Marina LLC in an open bid process from U.S. Bankruptcy Court as well as additional lots from private owners, after the 2012 hurricane for a total of $14,700 on an "as is" basis. The properties are subject to tax liens, deed defects, and other unresolved liabilities. The primary problem limiting the value of the marina is property taxes. The current 2012/2013 property tax bill is more than the total gross revenue earned by the marina for the same twelve month period. The marina cannot continue to operate as a viable commercial enterprise under current circumstances, according to its accountant Tony Novak, CPA. A number of other Money Island residents also submitted offers to sell through the Blue Acres program but official responses are not known. One offer to sell a Bayview Avenue property for more than $100,000 was declined by NJDEP. Last month Governor Christie announced an expansion of the shorefront property buyout program but said that buyouts will need to wait until a later round of funding becomes available. No dates are available at this time.
4/6/2013 - A bid notice was posted this week: NOTICE TO BIDDERS DOWNE TOWNSHIP CUMBERLAND COUNTY, NEW JERSEY SEALED BIDS will be received by the Township of Downe in the Township Clerk's Office, Municipal Building, 288 Main Street, Newport, New Jersey 08345 at 3:00 PM prevailing time, May 1, 2013, and then publicly opened and read aloud for the following item MONEY ISLAND BULKHEAD in accordance with specifications on file in the office of the Township Clerk. The specifications may be examined at the Township Clerk's office and electronic copies may be obtained by prospective bidders for a non-refundable fee of $50.00 and paper copies for a non-refundable fee of $100.00. For further information, call 856-447-3100. All bids submitted to the Township must comply with the provisions of the Notice to Bidders, Instructions to Bidders, and Specifications issued therefore; and the statutory requirements of the Local Public Contracts Law on file in the office of the Township Clerk. All bidders are required to comply with the requirements of N.J.S.A. 10:5-31 et seq. and N.J.A.C. 17:27 (affirmative action requirements) and the provisions of the New Jersey Prevailing Wage Act, Chapter 150 of the Laws of 1963, effective January 1, 1964, along with the "Public Works Contractor Registration Act" P.L 1999, C. 238. Each proposal must be submitted in duplicate and shall be enclosed in an opaque sealed envelope, addressed to "Township Clerk, Downe Township, New Jersey", and plainly marked on the outside "MONEY ISLAND BULKHEAD" with the name of the bidder, and be delivered to the Office of the Township Clerk, Municipal Building, 288 Main Street, Newport, NJ 08345, at or before 3:00 p.m. prevailing time, May 1, 2013. By Order of the Township Committee Constance Garton, Township Clerk.
4/5/2013 - Money Island community is saddened by the loss of Josh Cattlet, 24, presumed drowned in the sinking of the commercial fishing boat Linda Claire in the Delaware Bay on April 4. Both the boat and the Cattlet family have a history at Money Island, and our community expresses sympathies to the family.
3/31/2013 - Nine new green head fly traps were distributed alongside central Money Island roads from Bayview to East Nantuxent courtesy of the marina staff. The traps are based on the Rutgers' design, fortified to withstand local storms. Unlike the Rutgers' design our traps are reinforced with internal metal brackets, 2"x4" legs and cinder block anchors. Fly season runs from May through August.
3/27/2014 - Nantuxent Shedding announced that it will not resume operations at its Money Island aquaculture facility this season but will eventually rebuild using environmentally sustainable technologies to withstand damage by future storms. 2014 rebuilding plans were scrapped this week when the U.S. Small Business Administration declined to offer Money island Marina a disaster recovery assistance loan to rebuild its fuel delivery system. The crab shedding season typically begins in April. Tony Novak CPA, accountant for both of these Money Island businesses announced that rebuilding the community's fuel delivery capacity took priority over rebuilding the aquaculture operations. Novak told staff members "We are committed to providing fuel to the commercial watermen and will use money out of our own pocket, if necessary, to re-establish the essential fuel service".
3/23/2013 - Please join us Monday, March 25 at 3:00 - 5:00 pm at Bayshore Center at Bivalve for a meeting about developing our community response to sea level rise and climate change that directly affect the future of Money Island.
The agenda will include:
Light Refreshments will be served. Bivalve is 15 miles from Money Island. Take Route 555 (Main Street) from Newport east and look for signs to Bayshore Discovery Center on the right in the center of Bivalve.
1/3/2013 - Money Island Marina launched a Web site designed for smartphones and mobile devices to quickly provide watermen and boaters with up-to-date information about availability of fuel, bait and supplies as well as tides and weather conditions. The site www.moneyislandmarina.com will be dormant until March when fuel dock reopens and April when the full marina reopens for the season. Bruce Muenker, marina manager, intends to re-establish the reliability of the marina for the commercial industry.
UPDATED 12/24/2012 - Cumberland County Department of Health provides additional information on well water safety.. Money Island had two wells fail during hurricane Sandy; one was restored. Two of the island's seven wells have been tested by South Jersey Water Test following the storm. One well tested satisfactory. The other well has high levels of overall bacteria (but not E. Coli bacteria). This was presumed due to flooding. The normal response is shock treatment of the well with chlorine. A follow-up test is planned n the spring.
12/23/2012 - The area's second highest recorded flood water levels last Friday caused major damage to nearby Gandy's Beach and BayPoint created a mess at Money Island but minimal financial damage on Friday 12/21/2012. The highest-ever flood water levels were measured April 15, 2012. Like the prior flood, this event caught residents by surprise. The flood water level was several inches lower than the April flood but flood waters flowed at a faster pace, according to marina manager Bruce Muenker. The faster moving waters swept away almost everything that was not anchored. Other residents reported that some of the post-Sandy cleanup work was destroyed and two residents lost lumber that was intended for post-storm rebuilding. Two residents lost their cars because they had not anticipated this flood. Money Island Marina estimated that its financial losses due to this flood were less than $10,000. A work crew spent most of the day 12/20 cleaning up debris from the roadway and marina after winds subsided Sunday morning. Still, the impact of this flood following so closely behind Sandy was unnerving to the several residents.
11/3/2012 - The full "official" report from the Cumberland County Department of Health is available here. It was apparently delivered to Downe Township on September 28 and includes a list of concerns broken down for each property (listed by block and lot number). It appears that the inspectors misinterpreted some of the specific property issues they viewed, but that is understandable considering that they did not speak with all of the property owners or their representatives.
10/31/2012 - Contact information for Atlantic Electric, Red Cross and federal relief resources is available here.
We hope to have electric power restored by the end of today (Thursday). A personal reflection about the risk of storm-triggered personal depression is discussed in this short blog post of local news coverage.
Storm damage photos are available here. Rusty Joes Marina and Money Island Marina had little damage other than flooded buildings and debris. The commercial boats and docks were reported in good condition. The recreational boats that stayed on the island appeared undamaged. Most of the houses west of the bend on Nantuxent sustained some type of significant visible damage. At least three propane heating tanks are missing. Four buildings were destroyed (3 on Bayview, 1 on Nantuxent). The temporary concrete block seawalls on Bayview Road did not hold; the large concrete blocks protecting the bridge were knocked down for the first time in more than a decade. We appear to have less damage than Baypoint, Gandy's Beach and Fortescue.
10/20/2012 - Underwater septic systems appear to be at the top of the list of concerns for MI residents tackling home improvements. Several inspections by Cumberland County Board of Health officials in addition to private septic contractors will explore the status of existing systems and lead to plans to shit down, replace or repair damaged systems. New systems, like the one pictured above, are actually holding tanks that are periodically emptied by qualified septic contractors.
10/19/2012- NBC 40 quoted local sources predicting that Money Island will be gone within five years due to sea level rise and erosion.
Meanwhile, last night in a meeting also covered by NBC 40, environmental groups and three Money Island residents attended a meeting to voice disapproval of the Downe Township redevelopment plan for Money Island. Matt Blake of the American Littoral Society presented his environmental group's opposition to the plan. Jennifer Adkins from the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary spoke in opposition to further shoreline development. Newport resident Bernie Sayers also spoke briefly in opposition of the redevelopment plan. Money Island resident Patricia Pew referred attendees to the 2010 report of a study by the Army Corp. of Engineers that put the entire area in a high risk zone for danger due to inundation.
Considering the huge cost of the proposed infrastructure plan, the limited lifespan of the improvements and the degree of public resistance to the proposal, we suspect the development plan will not get off the ground, at least in regard to Money Island.
Separately this week officials from the NJ Green Acres program complied a list of Money Island residents (mostly on Bayview Avenue) who would be interested in selling if the state made an acceptable buy-out offer. While two residents said they would sell, the rest of the residents who were reached said they would consider the buy-out offer. The problem is that current property market values are only a fraction of their tax assessment value that was set prior to the severe damages incurred since 2008. If the state offer based on the tax assessed value, it seems likely that the majority of owners would agree to sell to the state. Some residents expressed feelings that it would be unfair to ta their properties at a higher value and then offer a lower buyout based on damages and drop in values that has already incurred due to the flooding. Typically in a state buy-out situation the initial offer is the highest and those who resist the sale wind up staying longer but ultimately receive less money in the eventual sale and reduced level of government services. New Jersey law essentially allows the state to dictate the terms of tidal areas located below the high tide line. Almost all of the Bayview properties have a significant portion of their home or lot positioned below the mean tide line.
9/24/2012 - Downe Township presented an infrastructure redevelopment plan for the bay shore communities (Money Island, Gandy's Beach and Fortescue) in a special meeting. The core of the project would involve a wastewater treatment processing plant, bulkheads, bridge and roadway redevelopment in an effort to combat the erosion facing these communities as water levels continue to rise. The redevelopment plan would cost $40 to $50 million dollars. This estimated cost is more than the collective current real estate value of the affected properties more than the collective present value of the future tax revenue that would be collected. According to Downe Township residents and a state official familiar with the situation, the Township's plan has little chance of gaining traction but will provide the benefit of stalling enforcement of pending DEP actions against the Township for unpermitted waterfront development. County action against individual Money Island residents who lack working septic tanks would also be delayed if a community redevelopment plan is moving forward. One resident pointed out that the township has been unable to come up with the total cost of approximately $550,000 needed for its portion of the cost to complete the rebuilding of Bayview Road that partially washed out in 2003. Downe Township's past experience and track record in obtaining capital funding would suggest that the proposed project 100 times more expensive could face even more financial difficulties. BaySave's Tony Novak commented on the larger environmental situation in NJ.com: "We need to consider that any investment in development of bay shore communities is only a short term response and that the inevitable long term government response is likely to be strategic evacuation of our bay shore communities. This is not a message that people want to hear, yet it is the overwhelming conclusion of virtually every mid-Atlantic community that has sufficiently invested in a sea level rise response initiative. New Jersey is the only state that does not have such a plan in the works. We presume that eventually the state will tackle this controversial issue and that this will be a difficult process. Consider that across the bay in Delaware the planning process is much further evolved than in Downe and that already there is considerable tension among stakeholders. Decline in property values, failures of public services, and fights over remaining available resources are all the result. I've followed these issues in communities from Tangiers Virginia in the Southern Chesapeake Bay to Port Mahon, Delaware and our neighbor Sea Breeze to the north for several years (see www.BaySavefoundation.com) and the struggles involved are both universal and gut-wrenching for those involved". Without a redevelopment plan in the works, however, the township faces significant fines according to a DEP enforcement official. The discussion may continue until state government tackles the difficult issue of how to respond to sea level rise on a larger basis.
19/19/2012 - Delaware took a step forward with a public meeting that presented the findings of a study of four possible responses to sea level rise along the Delaware Bay. The results resemble the published reports produced by other mid-Atlantic states. New Jersey has not yet taken similar action and face the possibility of "no action" being the default official response.
8/17/2012 - Money Island's only new construction property sales effort ended this week - at least temporarily - with the announcement that the family will retain ownership by selling to the parents of the deceased owner. Other properties remain listed for sale with little activity. The former owner had hoped to sell the new cabin for as much as $275,000 in better times. Since then property values dropped by as much as 80% due to flooding, lack of infrastructure and bankruptcy of the island's only active business. Local government received approval of a $540,000 grant for repairs in 2008 but has been unable to obtain permission from the DEP to make the repairs. Residents fear that most of the grant money has already been spent on legal and paperwork issues rather than physical repairs.
The property on Bayview Road had been listed with a Realtor for about 18 months but the highest cash offer reported was $50,000, less than the cost of the building. Potential buyers expressed concerns that approval for a septic system would not be granted and that the property must use a holding tank that must be periodically emptied by a commercial service. The cost of that service combined with the state-required monitoring of the holding tank system could be substantial.
The new owner, a relative of the former owners, said that he intends to obtain a septic approval before selling the property again.
Other property owners on Bayview Avenue have similarly reduced their prices but no residential properties have sold in the regular market (outside of bankruptcy, private sales and estate sales) since 2006. Other adjacent or nearby properties are now offered for $20,000 and $40,000 with no takers.
Money Island residents had hoped that this property sale would officially establish that property values have fallen far below the 2006 assessed value that arbitrarily put each lot value at $100,000. Actual current market value is estimated to be less than $20,000. This raises the risk that a growing number of tax delinquencies will put additional pressure on property values in the future. Currently about a third of Money Island properties are subject to tax liens and about a fourth of the lots are in bankruptcy.
Cumberland County Board of Taxation appeal procedures do not allow the use of an intra-family property sale to be used as the basis of appeal by neighbors. As a result of the combined drop in property values combined with the sharp increase in property taxes, Money Island residents pay among the highest property tax rates in the nation as a percentage of their property value. One resident complained that the $12,000 cash offer she received for her dilapidated cabin would barely cover the amount she had borrowed to pay property taxes in recent years.
7/20/2012 - The Department of Justice announced the convictions of multiple defendants on felony charges related to fishing operations that took more oysters from the Delaware Bay than allowed. The convictions followed an early morning raid on September 9 last year at Money Island with multiple arrests and the seizures of boats involved in the crimes.
Employees of Reeves Brothers and Shellrock LLC, all of Port Norris, N.J., were convicted following a 7-week trial in Camden NJ on charges including creating false records, trafficking in illegally possessed oysters, obstructing the Food and Drug Administration's regulation of public health and safety, and conspiring to commit those crimes and obstruct justice, federal authorities said.
Also convicted were officials from Harbor House Seafood in Seaford, Del. Prosecutors say Reeves Brothers over-harvested its quota between 2004 and 2009 and Harbor House helped hide the catches. Federal authorities say the extra oysters had a value of more than $600,000.
The oyster population is dangerously depleted in the Delaware Bay with less than 1% of the population of live oysters than once grew in the bay. Besides being a food source, oysters are one of two species that filter excess nutrient runoff from the water that results in depleted oxygen and "dead zones" in a growing portion of waters. Both the state and federal government consider oyster population management to be a high priority issue.
All of the companies continue to operate at Money Island. (more...)
6/6/2012 - Cumberland County Prosecutor's office announced intentions to pursue the drunk driving case against former Money Island resident Roger Mauro Jr. stemming from a 2006 vehicular assault on Bayview Road. (more...)
15/10/2012 - Endangered migratory bird species including ruddy turnstones (Arenaria interpres), red knots (Calidris canutus), semipalmated sandpipers (Calidris pusilla) and sanderlings (Calidris alba) blanket the shores of the Delaware Bay and nearby salt marshes each spring. They arrive here to refuel and rejuvenate on horseshoe crab eggs and other invertebrates as they continue on their journey from South America to nesting grounds in northern Canada. Each spring, a natural phenomenon that has been repeated for millennia occurs, when countless horseshoe crabs come ashore to spawn. Migratory birds that travel up to 9,000 miles on the Atlantic Flyway feed on the eggs of these ancient animals. For many birds, the Delaware Bay shores’ beaches and marshes are the only stop on an annual odyssey from their winter feeding grounds in South America to Arctic breeding sites.
A top shorebird site within the extraordinary migratory crossroads of the Delaware Bay, the extensive marshes surrounding Money Island protect the are from the impacts of storms. State-endangered raptors, including northern harriers (Circus cyaneus) and peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus), and threatened wintering Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) also use the area.
Fall and winter birds
In the fall and winter the same marches usually become the feeding grounds for hundreds of thousands of snow geese. This past winter, however, we saw far fewer geese than in any recent past season. Speculation is that the mild winter affected the birds' migration patterns.
Rare plants, including upright bindweed (Convolvulus spithamaeus), coast bedstraw (Galium hispidulum) and bristling panic grass (Panicum aciculare) are still common at Money Island. See the article "Beach Grass Profiles" for other common Money Island plants.
Township approves bond to fund Bayview bulkhead
Property owner's association start-up delayed
Impact of storms lingers
Bayview Roadwork hits snags
Nantuxent Cove was officially named an "Important Bird Area"
Tax assessment appeal update
Submissions are welcome.