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Duneboggle News: Bidders will wait while Margate and DEP negotiate

A federal judge has extended her order halting the state's project to build dunes on Margate's beaches while the parties try to resolve their differences or head to state court to take ownership of Margate's beach easements.

News from Duneboggle land, in which the City of Margate has filed suit to halt the state of New Jersey and the U.S. Army Corps from initiating a beach replenishment project that will involve building dunes on Margate's flat beaches:

U.S. District Judge Renee Marie Bumb has extended her order barring the state from awarding a contract for a $74 million beach replenishment project after bidders agreed to extend their bids until Jan. 26. The bids for the contract, which will be awarded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, had been set to expire this month. The state Department of Environmental Protection, in its rush to meet that deadline, had seized Margate's public easements by filing an administrative order with the County  _ a process Judge Bumb rejected during a hearing this month. She advised the state to inititate eminent domain proceedings that would allow Margate to formally object.

Philadelphia Attorney Jordan Rand, one of Margate's hired legal team being paid for out of a $200,000 legal fund authorized by Margate's voters in a November referendum, told the judge in a letter Tuesday that the extension agreed to by the bidders will allow the parties "to engage in further discussions."

Margate voters want the state to leave them out of the dune, which was ordered by Gov. Christie after Sandy to stretch the entire 127-mile length of the Jersey coast. The state had argued that for the dune along Absecon Island to be effective it has to run continuously from Atlantic City to Longport, which has changed its longstanding opposition to the dune system and is cooperating with the state. Other pockets of resistence remain in Bay Head and Long Beach Island, where the Army Corps nonetheless awarded a contract this week.

The opposition in Margate is based on residents' contention that the existing bulkhead is sufficient to protect the oceanfront, and point out that the worst of the flooding from Hurricane Sandy (and from this week's Nor'easter) came from the island's back bays. They object to the look of the dune, say it cuts air flow from the ocean and will create hidden costs for the city down the road. They say any water that breaches the dunes will then be trapped and not naturally recede back to the ocean, creating puddling of stale water and debris.

The judge set a tenative new hearing date for January 15 at 10 a.m. Her temporary restraining order was converted to a preliminary injunction until then, with a $10,000 Margate bond.