Homeowners in Bay Head are saying "no thanks" to Gov. Christie and the Army Corps of Engineer over plans to rebuild the beach in their town and several other seaside communities in northern Ocean County.
The state admits it has only secured one of the beach easements it needs to get from 124 property owners, according to Bob Martin, the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection.
"Sad to say is that we're finding a lot of selfish homeowners on the oceanfront that want their property, want their private beach in front of them," Martin told NBC New York on Thursday.
Martin said the state is prepared to exercise its power of eminent domain under the Coastal Protection Act within the next several weeks, in order to meet the Army Corps of Engineers deadline to begin sand pumping by next spring.
But homeowner Thatcher Brown, one of those leading the opposition to the project, said the easement would take up to half of what he calls his "front yard," which is the wide dune-line where he has built a deck overlooking the 3,000-mile view of the Atlantic Ocean.
Brown admitted he fears that after the public easement area is redrawn to include his deck, some beachgoer might walk up have a beer or two. But he says there is a much bigger issue.
"We've always paid to protect ourselves and we don't need the government to waste their money on pumping sand that's only going to wash away," Brown said.
He explained that after Hurricane Sandy, in which virtually every home in Bay Head was protected by the dunes in place at the time, almost all the homeowners got together and raised $2 million to build their own rock sea wall and cover it with new dunes.
But Army Corps of Engineers Project Manager Keith Watson said that whatever protection Bay Head residents think they have, the sand pumping project in the works will include several communities from Point Pleasant Beach all the way down to Island Beach State Park. Not doing Bay Head would be like leaving "a hole in the dike," Watson said.
Bay Head homeowners aren't buying that, and if they lose the battle over the actual taking of the easements, are vowing to fight the valuation of them in court. If they win large amounts, that has the potential to stop the project if the state can't afford the final price tag.