January 15, 2014 - Steve Eisenhauer, Regional Director of Stewardship and Land Protection for Natural Lands Trust released a 43 page report funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Environmental Justice Small Grants Program and the William Penn Foundation. Assistance was provided by the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary. BaySave Foundation was not involved in production of the report but will devote funding to its distribution and related educational programs both with the Downe Township community and to the regional media. This report is the most comprehensive look at the current state of our community with a listing and discussion of eleven response strategies. Steve interviewed many of the township's residents and business owners in his research. The conclusion that a hybrid approach to sea level rise and its related impacts is our reality; this view is already widely accepted in our community.
The report treats delicately the popular "No retreat" idealistic campaign for our community that is extremely popular among residents but has been criticized as unrealistic and financially unattainable by some outsiders. Eisenhauer skillfully avoids drawing attention to the problems caused by official projections of sea level response and the state's ongoing activity in community buy-outs that butts heads with our Republican Governor who refuses to acknowledge that comprehensive sea level rise response planning is crucial for the entire NJ shoreline.
The report most strongly documents the growing challenges we face including the continued decline in real estate values in Downe Township despite the backdrop of the larger national and regional economic recovery, the loss of farmland, the ineffectiveness of our eco-tourism efforts, lack of government response, physical erosion, financial erosion of the tax base.
The report focuses on the township's residential and farming issues. It does not address the future of the township's commercial fishery and aquaculture businesses. It seems plausible that the fishing and aquaculture enterprises may actually increase in the Bayshore communities even as the number of residents and farms continues to decline.
One Downe resident who reviewed the report noted that it does not include a discussion of the area's sub-terrain natural gas reserves and its potential impact over the long term. PSE&G's actions in acquiring over 20,000 acres of land in surrounding townships is noted. Some Downe Township residents feel that thee companies with interests in natural gas who are the primary funding sources the area' major environmental organizations and land trusts will ultimately determine our community's future - perhaps long after the current residents are gone.
November 7, 2013 - - Mayor Robert Campbell was interviewed on NJTV this week with an urgent warning that the bay shore communities may not survive without additional financial support from state and federal government. Campbell warns that unprotected communities could become extinct in the next big storm. The mayor has been a tireless and eloquent supporter of local communities in local media but has been largely unable to win commitments of support from state or federal officials. With its tax base shrinking and sharply increased maintenance expenses due to storms and flooding, the township has been unable to meet its operating expenses. Gandy's Beach and Money Island As early as 2006, Money Island accountant and environmental activist Tony Novak predicted that Downe Township would be one of the first governments to collapse as a direct result of climate change. Novak's conclusion was based primarily on a prediction of declining property values and lack of economic development. In contrast, Mayor Campbell's warning is based on risk of additional physical damage by future storms. Gandy's Beach residents know that if another storm destroys their bulkhead and roadway, it may not be replaced. A mile down the road, Money Island residents are concerned that one of two bridges on the island appears to be near the end of its useful life and may not survive the winter. Arrangements to replace it have not yet been made.
October 29, 2013 - The first draft of the Downe Township Resource Directory is published on this Web site. Please send request for inclusions, comments or ideas to continue to build the directory.
October 25, 2013 - Several typically reliable sources including the New Jersey Marine Trades Association have made informal statements that funding will begin to flow to our shore communities after the November election. Additional dredging for Fortescue, Nantuxent Creek and Gandy's Beach, a pump-out station for Money Island and NJ Strong redevelopment grants/loans were specifically mentioned in this discussion. Money Island Marina is an active member of the New Jersey Marine Trades Association. Fortescue Marina has been a member in the past.
August 11, 2013 - Fifteen members of the Money Island community joined in a discussion of the community and its future. The tone was hopeful yet concerned. Discussion topics included the public water system proposal, connection possibilities to the pump-out station, rising taxes and roadway washout. Residents voiced support for Downe Township Mayor Bob Campbell and frustration with representatives from Cumberland County Board of Health who seemed to lack factual information about a number of legally permitted septic systems in the community that are not reported in the Health Department's records. Some property owners have written records while others do not but insist that their systems were permitted at the time of installation. Tony Novak announced that the marina had no expectation of sustainability as a commercial enterprise and was seeking alternative strategies including discussions with the state and non-profit organizations. A homeowner who offered to sell land to the state explained his reasoning but still hoped to find a way to stay. A representative of American Littoral Society was in attendance and after hearing the group discussion on water quality and testing, admitted that his organization may not have a complete understanding of all of the facts.
August 7, 2013 - - Money Island's struggle with sustainability is featured in a new video. More at www.MoneyIslandNews.com .
July 3, 2013 - Today Governor Christie’s Office of Recovery and Rebuilding released news that an additional $107,000 in FEMA aid will be released to local government agencies to reimburse the cost of storm cleanup in the shore towns of Newport including Fortescue, Money Island and Gandy's Beach. It wasn't clear if all of that air will go to reimburse Downe Township but we presume that the announcement translates to a future tax savings of almost $2,000 per household in our community.
June 25, 2013 The White House boosted efforts to address those groups of Americans - including some right here in Downe Township - who are still not aware of the facts and government responses currently underway to address the impact of climate change. Read more..
June 24, 2013 Update - The state's buy out program representatives are reported to be coming to Gandy's Beach and Money Island this week for individual property inspections. The report we heard is: 1) purchase offers will be selective, not offered to all property owners, and 2) the offer will be 60% of pre-storm tax assessment value.
5/21/2013 - - This week homeowners in Gandy's Beach in Downe Township and Bay Point (Lawrence Township just north of Downe) announced that they have accepted offers from the state DEP to sell properties. The state will return the areas to natural wetlands. The owners of Bay Point Marina also announced that the marina will close and be sold to the state.
5/8/2013 - New Jersey's business and government leaders are adapting a new approach to sea level rise response by taking notice of a strategy already adopted by neighboring states including Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina.
Most people already realize that the available public funds are not sufficient to sustain the infrastructure of all of our failing shore communities but we feel, as a public interest, that it is vital to invest in saving some of our most treasured waterfront access. The decision of where to invest and where to abandon is a highly political issue and may, in fact, wind up as the most hotly contested issue in our modern history. In the Chesapeake Bay, for example, government recently decided to provide funds for a levy to save Tangier Island while the only assistance offered to residents of neighboring Smith Island is a relocation subsidy. Going forward, no government funds will be used to rebuild Smith Island.
Logically, the investment decision regarding public funds should be based on which locations provide the greatest overall public utility at the least overall cost. In each coastal county, officials are now looking at their options on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis to consider what can be done to mitigate the damage to infrastructure, erosion of land and roads, decline in usability and decreased property values caused by rising salt water.
In Downe Township, the growing consensus of thought seems to be that Fortescue and Money Island should receive preferential treatment and that Gandy's Beach might not be salvageable. Yet none of the political leaders we've heard from wants to say this publicly due to the risk of outrage and political fallout. Fortescue has the largest population, and a strong history of recreational usage. Money Island is an important commercial port and has a newly elevated causeway. The northern end of Money Island (Nantuxent Drive) has largely escaped the damage caused by the multiple "hundred year floods" we've had since 2008 while the southern portion (Bayview Avenue) has been heavily damaged. All of our bay shore communities have repair projects scheduled and waiting for DEP approval and funding. Only time will tell which projects ultimately receive financial support and which do not.
4/5/2013 - The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs reports that 93% of the businesses that submitted disaster recovery loan applications to SBA were declined. To our knowledge, all Downe Township businesses that applied were declined. An even greater number of homeowners face unprecedented financial need to repair or relocate their residence. In response to the huge unmet need, New Jersey's Governor Christie submitted an action plan to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. The federal government is now reviewing the plan and has 45 days to respond. We hope that additional news will be available by the end of April.
The Superstorm Sandy Action Plan contains several programs that may be of interest to Downe Township residents and businesses:
Each program will have specific eligibility criteria; these details are not yet fully developed. In the programs are approved and funded, more information will be available from state agencies and local business advisers.
4/4/2013 - Downe Township residents who attended the 'mobile cabinet' meeting at Cumberland County Community College on Tuesday April 2 report little value in the event. Attendance was sparse for the event held during business hours while most working people were at their jobs. Officials reportedly has little to add that affected residents did not already know.
3/28/2013 - Residents and community leaders met on Monday, March 25 at Bayshore Center at Bivalve for a meeting about developing our community response to sea level rise and climate change. The discussion included:
Downe Township New Jersey faces the highest risk of near term permanent inundation from sea level rise as compared to all other New Jersey townships based on the percentage of its land area, tax base and residential population living at low elevation. All of its shoreline communities (including Fortescue, Gandy's Beach, Money Island and Dyer's Cove l located the dark grey area in the center of the climatechange.org map excerpt below) are predicted to face permanent inundation losses within the next seven years according to data compiled by NOAA and the US Geological Survey. See the full research report and full interactive map. Over the next five years we predict that the cost of storm recovery (and tax increases to pay for it) will become the most contested financial issue for Downe Township and leadership in the sea level response is likely to become the primary political force.
The combined effects of declining property values, eroding tax base, decreased flood insurance coverage, and eventual reductions in state and federal shoreline reconstruction efforts may actually force Downe Township into bankruptcy or (more likely) into merger with an upland township. This Web site will report on the issue in real time as it happens.
"Save our bayshore" campaign 11/27/2012
Well water safety information 11/8/2012