The ongoing battle between Shore communities and beachfront homeowners over easements for federal beach replenishment projects has May 1st deadline according to 3rd District Congressman John Runyan.

Congressman Jon Runyan addresses Ocean County Mayors during Ocean County Mayor’s Breakfast Week of January 22nd (Tom Mongelli, Townsquare Media NJ)

A letter sent Friday to the mayors of towns throughout the Barnegat Peninsula by the Congressman informed officials that all easements have to be collected by May 1st because that is when the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Work is expected to present a plan for the four billion dollars set aside for the Army Corps of Engineers beach replenishment projects.

The easements are legal documents which are required to be signed by beachfront property owners in order to use federal funds for wide scale beach nourishment projects. For the US Army Corps of Engineers to do the projects, easements must be obtained for all property owners along a shore line in a given area. Currently Toms River on has one signature of thirty.

Runyan notes it’s important not to lose access to the money.

“You know there’s only so much funding and this is an opportunity right here to make sure everybody is on board so we can get these projects done.”

Local officials and Runyan say all of the easements need to be collected so the entire coastline can be protected.

“The Army Corps when they submit their plan in May, they can say “we want to do this section but there’s too many easements outstanding so we’re going to move to this other section so that’s kind of the crunch time we are in.”

Municipalities like Toms River and Brick say the federal beach replenishment projects will protect residents by widening beaches and building dunes, however beach front property owners worry signing the easements will give the government more control of the land. Runyan says they are working with the DEP to put language into the easements addressing the concerns of homeowners.

“The wandering of the mind can sometimes create a lot of fear and the DEP has been very forward in just saying we’re going to resolve all of this to try and put people’s minds at ease.”