Recent history of Money Island New Jersey

Money Island was built on the shore of the Delaware Bay in Cumberland County, New Jersey, from the 1930s to the 1970s mostly without the benefit of permits, surveys, licenses, etc. That led to 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.

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. 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. In 2019, however, some of the commercial watermen 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 by threatened government legal actions against homeowners. Most find it more economical to move out than to spend the money to meet government demands. Less than 10 houses are currently occupied on a regular basis. Some of the few remaining residents stayed because they can’t afford to sell and relocate to a new location, especially not a waterfront location. As of mid 2020, almost all of the remaining residents state an intention to remain here.

The recreational marina had such a low level of utilization in the past decade that continued 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. The property owner kept the marina business  open without charging rent to help accommodate the recently deceased marina manager. Despite the low usage, both public and private interests are committed to maintaining public access to the waterways here. Now the marina is a private use facility.

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 by The Nature Conservancy and its partners is encouraging. We’ve shown progress on restoring species diversity, preventing shoreline erosion, rebuilding elevated infrastructure, and moving toward energy independence.

The government consultant for the Money Island Marina community met with officials at NJDEP in May 2019. They report that an agreement in principal has been reached to allow proposed restorative aquaculture and sustainable redevelopment. Meanwhile, however, permit approvals to make the necessary improvements to current infrastructure are currently stalled by state government actions.

The mayor of Downe Township government reports publicly that 30 million of dollars of private and public funding required for permitting and rebuilding of Money Island has already been identified but that these proposed sources are contingent on state government action of releasing property liens. The township passed an ordinance authorizing the purchase of properties at Money Island though eminent domain. While that action and timeline is outside of our local control, most doubt that government will be able to raise the money required for this redevelopment. We believe that a public/private partnership will likely be required. Money Island is now in a ‘waiting pattern’ for the state government action to complete past purchase contracts and halt current litigation over the remaining properties. That will trigger the availability of new funding to address these other issues and launch a new era of environmentally sustainable redevelopment.

Private redevelopment action is led by Nantuxent Corporation. The company’s focus is on built-to-suit commercial dock sales.

A book about Money Island was released in November 2019 and a follow up film is anticipated. No production schedule is established.