The short version: The marina is closed while we wait for specific state officials to do what they said they would do. It is taking much longer than expected but we expect eventual support.
For those who have not followed the recent history of Money Island, this is a quick summary, current as of April 9, 2019:
Money Island was built on the shore of the Delaware Bay in Cumberland County, New Jersey, from the 1930s to the 1970s without any permits, surveys, licenses, etc. that leads to many regulatory compliance problems today because of the decades-old missing paperwork. We propose to address these paperwork deficiency issues with legal redevelopment that accounts for future use, higher water levels, frequent flooding, and increased wetland erosion. Research on sustainable infrastructure and restorative aquaculture is already underway here by a handful of educational and environmental groups. Meanwhile, however, permit applications to make improvements to current infrastructure have been denied and the state government recently obtained court order to shut down most existing facilities.
Water level rise is a major factor in the redevelopment plans. While more water is good for the proposed future aquaculture uses, it is not good news for traditional human uses. It could also be devastating to the grass marshes that are washing away at an alarming pace. By 2050 Money Island will likely be completely underwater except for the reconstructed infrastructure designed with this expectation.
Money Island is primarily a seafood landing port. In fact Money Island is New Jersey’s second most productive seafood landing port worth millions of dollars to the local economy every month in oysters, crabs, and fish. The larger regional seafood companies have proposed expanding here and are quietly acquiring more of the waterfront space. Eventually Money Island will be the primary site of the region’s expanding oyster nurseries. A growth in Delaware Bay oyster production of 1,000% to 2,000% is possible within a decade. For 2019, however, some of the smaller watermen have moved out of Money Island because the state closed their docks.
The residential houses are disappearing. This is a voluntary choice of the owners based primarily on the observed effects of water level rise. Buyouts are exacerbated but not forced by government actions. Less than 10 houses are currently occupied on a regular basis. Some of the few remaining residents stay because they can’t afford to sell and relocate at the current low property values that have fallen more than 90% over the past decade. If finances were not an issue, we suspect that all residents would relocate.
The recreational marina declined to such a low level of utilization in recent years that operation as a commercial entity was impossible. From 2016 to 2018 the marina averaged just one customer per day. The marina accumulated more than 10 consecutive years of financial losses and had to obtain supplemental funding by local nonprofits organizations since 2010. Despite the low usage, both public and private interests are committed to maintaining public access to the waterways here.
The local government and community groups created a redevelopment strategy for the bayshore region that specifically focused on a sustainable redevelopment plan for Money Island as the region’s premier aquaculture center and seafood landing port. That plan has not yet been formally supported by state policy makers. The business of saving one storefront community for economic reasons while abandoning other communities as the water level continues to rise will continue to be politically difficult. Still, we expect that the need for seafood production increase will eventually win in this political struggle.
Results of research are encouraging. We’ve shown progress on restoring species diversity, preventing erosion, rebuilding elevated infrastructure, and moving toward energy independence.
The government consultant for the Money Island community recently met with high level officials at NJDEP. They report that an agreement in principal has been reached to allow proposed restorative aquaculture and sustainable redevelopment. No formal, legal and actionable steps have been taken yet.
The millions of dollars of private and public funding required for permitting and rebuilding of Money Island have already been identified but all of these proposed sources are contingent on state government action. Access to redevelopment money is not expected to be a the problem in this case. Investors are actually fighting for primary positions in the redevelopment plan once it is approved.
We are in a ‘waiting pattern’ for the state government action to halt current litigation over past lack of permitting that will then trigger a release of new funding to address these other issues.
A book and film about Money Island will be released soon and we hope this will bring attention to our situation.
Looking ahead at the planned redevelopment of Money Island, we know that there will be many changes with an uncertain time frame. About half of the homes are recently removed and more will be removed in the future.
Some of the immediate changes on our campus focus on increased physical and operational security. Anyone associated with the marina in a position of handling transactions or equipment will be required to provide a background investigation report. Information will be provided on a case by case basis. Members will be provided with a bright ID tag.
The marina is currently closed for winter during this permitting phase. We do not have a reopening date, but a plan is in place to reopen Husted’s Landing Marina first, then Money Island later. Things will definitely be different here in the future and we don’t know those details yet. This list of changes will change as we get feedback from the state, developers, local government and others. But this is what we see so far for 2019:
Facilities expected to be open to members:
boat launch (defined as the concrete or gravel structures on the ground at various locations)
nature walk areas
recreational and commercial docks on sites not designated by the state
Two weeks ago Tony met with the director of the NJ Small Business Development Center at Stockton University to discuss Money Island’s strategic planning for our various businesses. Tangible results are beginning to show.
First, our business plan went through a major update and is available in draft format for public comment. (If you want to see a draft copy, please contact us).
Second, since it is clear that our future depends on success in obtaining government and private sector grants, the SBDC is trying to help us with the grant proposal writing and management process. This is almost a full time job and Tony is already overwhelmed with the first five grant programs wehere we are currently being considered.
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.
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
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.