Money Island in the news again over expanded buyouts

docks at Money Island Marina
commercial crabbing and oyster boat docks at Money Island Marina

We were a bit concerned by this lopsided coverage by the Atlantic City Press this week where the reporter included five comments by the mayor about how his local government will be hurt by the property buyouts but not a single comment about the devastating financial impact on the residents and property owners here who have already suffered the loss of their homes and much of their property value.

The state apparently announced expansion of its local buyout offer of the Money Island hoes to now include the commercial docks but we do not have any confirmation from any dock owners yet. We own several of the commercial docks in the target area and haven’t received any notice yet.

Money Island Marina at sunset
recreational boat docks at Money Island Marina

There were only two comments from Money Island residents in the AC Press article. Jeanie is, well, our beloved unique neighbor and it’s fair to say her life view is different from most. She has been clear, just like her well-respected mother years ago, that she intends to remain here no matter what. Meghan, the other resident who offered comment, is always diplomatic and politically correct as is appropriate for her role as leader of the regional recovery effort. But what about the 60+ other property owners here, mostly hard-working local people, who have already lost homes collectively worth millions of dollars attributable to the rising water?

Just to repeat, we still have no word on the state’s intent for the marina or the docks. The news reported that the buyout offers have extended to Money Island’s commercial docks but we own several of them and we have no indication yet that the state is interested in acquiring the properties. In early 2012 (before Sandy) a formal offer was made to gift these properties to the state and then lease them back. This is the way Fortescue Marina and many other marinas around the state operate and all people at DEP the Tony spoke with agreed that it was a good plan.

But then the state apparently lost focus after Sandy and we haven’t heard anything since then on the status of the plan. The informal word is that the offer is still being considered but through channels outside of the Blue Acres program because Blue Acres is for acquiring open space, not meant for sale/leasebacks. All informal indications are that state government wants the marina to remain in business; we just don’t know how that will be financially possible without a sale/leaseback.

For now we are just waiting and will postpone any new major capital expense projects until we have clarification from the state. As far as we know, planned improvements to the boat ramp, pump out station, seawall, shoreline restoration, etc. that are already in motion will continue to move forward (slowly as always) at Money Island. The marina will continue forward with planned dock improvements this season.

flooding at Money Island
occasional flooding has been a long term issue at Money Island Marina

Our best guess, based on collected comments of residents and government officials, is that the marina and commercial harvesting businesses will remain at Money Island for perhaps a decade or two, but that most of the other remaining Money Island residents, about 15, will be gone within the next five years. Tony reminds owners that historically about 8 out of 10 people who receive an offer from NJDEP Blue Acres do eventually accept the buyout. It’s not that they want to sell but rather that they run out of other options.

Aquaculture at Money Island?

Does aquaculture hold the key for the future of Money Island? Tony thinks so and has gradually been re-purposing the marina and surrounding properties as a support facility for shellfish harvesting and other aquaculture support. It will be years or even decades until we know for sure what direction the Delaware Bay will take in terms of food production in terms of preferred species or sustainable levels of production.

Check out this TED video at http://www.ted.com/talks/mike_velings_the_case_for_fish_farming.

Wall Street to Money Island. How did that happen!?

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Wall Street and Money Island NJ; two opposite corners of the earth.

This week marks 29 years since I left a Wall Street firm to work on my own in the small business world. I posted a reflective piece on the mostly hard lessons learned. I still don’t care to talk much about those days but I suppose that I should.

More at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/29-years-away-from-wall-street-tony-novak-cpa-mba-mt

 

 

Update on Money Island buyout status

Money Island NJ

There is renewed hub-bub this week about the status of state buyouts of homes at Money Island. This post is not meant as a complete rehash of the topic but rather just a short bullet point summary of what’s going on from out perspective. In the short term, nothing is changed. In the long term, we are all underwater.

  • I’ve talk with a lot of people inside and outside government about this issue over the past decade yet I have no official indication that the state is interested in acquiring more property in Downe other than residences. Yet that seems to be the implication of this week’s announcement by NJDEP.
  • I am advising property owners in other parts of Downe and Lawrence township but at this time I (personally or through BaySave Corporaion) do not have any financial interests in any of these properties. I do have the right of first refusal on some properties in both townships. None of those properties are involved in buyouts. These first refusal rights preceded and are unrelated to the current buyout process.
  • The state informally says that they are considering the 2012 offer to acquire the marina properties by gift and then leasing it back to the operators. This is a proposal I still support as being logical and sustainable.
  • BaySave’s 2015 report on progress toward sustainability was issued in draft form and is available to anyone by request. The report contains more information on the progress of properties owned by the marina. I may publish a copy online soon.
  • More property owners in Lawrence and Downe township have come to me for help and advice regarding possible buyouts.
  • The buyouts of some properties are moving forward.
  • Most property owners who are offered a buyout do accept the first offer.
  • Other than what is stated here and in other public spaces online I have no “inside information” on the process.
  • The state’s official forecast, confirmed by every other independent source, is that we will be inundated (i.e. underwater) by rising sea level within our lifetime.
  • Inundated areas like Money Island are presumed to be inappropriate for residential communities.
  • Inundated areas like Money Island can be appropriate for aquaculture and eco-tourism with government’s approval and support.
  • We are still looking for guidance from government on whether to stay and rebuild the businesses or sell to the open space initiative and move away.
  • The NJDEP and Cumberland County Department of Health has been enormously cooperative in helping us resolve these issues.
  • Downe Township has not offered any support or guidance in our business recovery and at times seems to be responding with obstacles. Many people presume this lack of support is due to the personal and legal history between me and the township. I am doing my best to bridge the communication gaps.
  • My best guess is that the aquaculture and harvesting businesses at Money Island will remain but the residences will disappear. Presumably, then, public access to the water would remain possible but the business model of a public access marina would need to change significantly in order to survive. Perhaps it would be like Bay Point? Or perhaps a Fortescue model would be more appropriate? We just don’t know yet.
  • There is no indication that any of this current discussion is related to last week’s storm. It is just coincidental that the storm triggered additional news and media coverage of the decade-old issue.
  • For more information on this topic see Steve Eisenhauer’s report.
Money Island's cleanup after last weekend's storm was reported in the Daily Journal
Money Island’s cleanup after last weekend’s storm was reported in the Daily Journal

Weekend winter storm Jonas damage assessment

This past weekend’s storm caused more problems here than we initially expected. It is quite noticeable that Money Island took one more hit in the long battle against rising water level and increased storm energy. The most visible impact is a loss of more than one vertical foot of beach sand on the water side of the new Bayview Road bulkhead.  That beach loss was a predicted impact of the sea wall construction but seeing it happen in real life is no less shocking. The marina lost a finger dock, a load of dock lumber and of our two dock ramps need major repairs. One neighbor’s house lost a section of siding. At least two of the commercial docks need repair or replacement of their flotation. Repair costs of the damaged items we noticed are likely to be in the range of $10,000 to $20,000 even with our use of primarily volunteer and uncompensated labor.

One of the long term predictions about the effect of climate change is that the combine forces of sea level rise and increased water and air temperatures in that smaller storms like this will have a greater destructive impact on property. That seems to be the case with this recent storm Jonas.

I noticed the irony that the newer structures seemed to incur the most damage. The old decrepit and abandoned structures here seem to have survived unscathed.

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We do not yet know what is caused this new dock to sink. Perhaps the air-filled floats cracked and filled with water. The floats were rebuilt in September 2015. This will likely be our most difficult and expensive repair this spring.

trailer stuck in sand
trailer stuck in sand

Flowing sand across roadways and parking areas can cause headaches.

Bayview Road bridge
Bayview Road bridge

There is more deterioration of the roadway at the Bayview Road bridge yet a tractor clearing debris drove over it today.

ice on the marsh
ice on the marsh

The snow and ice on the marsh was mostly melted by the end of the day Monday.

Storm protection improvements at Money Island Marina

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This photo shows new hardware and a safety chain connecting two sections of reconstructed floating dock. The safety chain bolts go through the 4″ beams of the dock below the deck. It the event of a severe storm the pin connecting the docks might break but the chain will likely survive.

Over the past 3+ years since hurricane Sandy we’re made huge progress toward improving our ability to withstand high winds, flooding and even flowing ice. You could say it’s almost been an obsession around here. Here is a partial list of our recent projects:

  • replaced high electric lighting fixtures mounted on poled with lower level more protected solar powered dock lights
  • replaced trash dumpster with “tip-proof” elevated storm proof sealed trash and recycling kiosks
  • stronger signage with plywood backing
  • use of new corrugated roofing materials and construction techniques designed to withstand 80 mph winds
  • replaced commercial port-a-potty with elevated and non-tip-able toilet
  • stainless steel cable tether lines on movable structures and equipment
  • elevated buildings
  • upgraded the water well and pump house to better withstand freezing and flooding
  • installed a water line break alarm system
  • constructed storm-roof crab shedding trays
  • replaced PVC with more flexible and freeze-proof PEX water supply lines
  • constructed an enclosed lumber yard
  • anchored buildings and floating decks to pilings with hurricane straps
  • anchored roofs to buildings with hurricane straps
  • upgraded major supporting beams from 4×4 lumber to 6×6 lumber
  • moved freezer and ice machine from outside deck to inside a closed structure
  • constructed dunes and berms
  • planted dune grass
  • encouraged growth of ground cover on empty lots so that root systems will prevent erosion
  • added rock on most vulnerable shorelines
  • entered partnership with The Nature Conservancy shoreline stabilization project.
  • Used oyster shell, conch shell and clam shell in strategic places to prevent erosion
  • Used various sized porous materials to minimize erosion from drainage in the most vulnerable spots
  • new methods to strengthen pilings and prevent erosion of poles and docks
  • added safety chains to docks
  • installed new quick-disconnect hardware on vulnerable finger docks
  • combining the use of both nails and screws for better overall strength in dock construction
  • upgraded dock hardware to 1/2″ galvanized
  • experimental use of plastic dock angle hardware for flexibility and rust resistance
  • reconstructed docks to be stronger and more resistant to flowing ice
  • replaced older pilings with stronger new poles
  • use a double system of rings plus chains to secure the most vulnerable floating docks (the transition dock near the ramp)
  • replaced older concrete septic tank lids with new sealed plastic lids
  • allow walkways and some decks to float in high water without causing damage
  • replaced storage buildings to gather and contain materials and equipment
  • in general, we don’t leave things laying around outside

Storm protection is an ongoing project for us but we feel confident that we’ve come a long way in the past three years.

 

We love our little Yamaha 2.5 horsepower outboard

This little 2.5 horsepower 4 stroke engine is one of the most fuel efficient outboard engines made. It does not set any speed records but easily moves our 12 foot aluminum rental boat up the creek for perch fishing.

We thought that the sound of an outboard engine would be welcome and comforting in the middle of January.