, Salem, MA


May 18, 2013

In NJ bay, sea draws ever closer


Meanwhile, bumper stickers are plastered on homes: “No retreat. Save the Bayshore communities.”

“I refuse to give up one house, one lot, one piece of land,” said Robert Campbell, Downe’s mayor. “These towns are 200 years old. … It’s a special place. We’ve got to preserve it.”

Their survival is also fiscally crucial; they represent half of Downe’s tax base.

He and others blame flooding not on sea-level rise but on the decline of dikes once used for salt hay farming; (Scientists say the dikes blocked the tides from naturally bolstering mashes with sediment.)

Campbell also blames the state for being too tough in issuing permits for bulkheads and jetties.

After Hurricane Irene struck in 2011, the town put up temporary bulkheads. The state issued violation notices.

Now, those structures need restoration, too.



Wren thought she would have more time.

She imagined that the changes “would be far enough in the future that I could figure out how to manage it” — maybe by working from home during floods. Not anymore.

She and her husband, Jesse Briggs, subscribe to an alert system for when higher-than-usual tides are predicted.

But in December, an alert went out at 3 a.m. When Wren woke up, it was already too late. Her Prius was swamped. Now, she drives a hybrid SUV that is 6 inches higher.

She thinks it was hubris for humans to build on the shore. And “it seems like folly to be trying to control nature” now.

But she’s lived on the water her whole life. Briggs is captain of the A.J. Meerwald. They named their son Delbay — for Delaware Bay.

“I can kind of see it from all sides,” Wren said of the debate over Money Island and its neighbors. So far, it comes down to this: “If the township decides to keep the infrastructure, I’m committed to keeping my house.”

Ultimately, the question may not be how to keep the waterfront intact but how to get to the towns in the first place.

A new sea-level rise mapping tool from Rutgers University shows that with 1 more foot of rise — easily possible before century’s end — the roads through the marshes would be underwater at high tide.

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