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.

Planning for 2019 at Money Island

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:

Beach

jetty

boat launch (defined as the concrete or gravel structures on the ground at various locations)

rafts

kayaks

boats

decks

picnic areas

nature walk areas

gardens

roadways

parking areas

refrigerator/freezer

Ice machine

Bait cooler

storage areas

recreational and commercial docks on sites not designated by the state

water service

Docks on sites not closed by the state

 

Facilities expected to be closed to all:

ramps on sites designated by the state

docks on sites designated by the state

walkways on sites designated by the state

fuel system

bathroom

Grant proposals for Money Island

SBDC logoTwo 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.

 

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

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.