More than two-and-a-half years after Superstorm Sandy, New Jersey officials continue to push a plan to build up sand dunes along the entire 1,270 miles of coastline, to protect shore communities from future storms.

Superstorm-Dune Wars
A woman, right, scavenges on the beach while workers labor on the new seawall construction project to protect Mantoloking. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has called beachfront homeowners resisting the plan "extraordinarily selfish," but some of those homeowners argue the dunes aren't really needed, and the government has no right to tell them what to do with their property.

According to Professor John Tiedemann, the assistant dean of the Monmouth University School of Science, and the director of the Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy program, having a completed wall of sand dunes is absolutely necessary.

Tiedemann said if an entire stretch of beachfront property does not have built up sand dunes "there is going to be a weak link that is potentially an area where storm surge and overflow of water during a storm might be funneled."

Should that happen, the residents who resist the plan as well as others along the coast, could be put in harm's way, Tiedemann said.

"But from a community standpoint it kind of places the properties behind the ocean front property in some jeopardy," Tiedemann said. "The energy of the storm may at that point kind of find its way to be channeled into that unprotected portion."

He said if that happens, the entire community could be flooded.

"The dune isn't there just to protect that one oceanfront home. It's there to protect all of the properties and all of the infrastructure. The holdouts need to remember this is for their benefit as well as the communities benefit and you don't have to look much farther than the pictures of Sandy to realize that the areas that had dunes fared much better than the areas that didn't have dunes," he said.

Tiedemann said if we look at nature, sand dunes are part of the plan.

"Look at any natural undeveloped coastal area and you'll see a well-developed dune system. It's almost like a two-tiered dune system, a large primary dune that functions as a sand feeder and sand collector for the beach and then a secondary dune that fortifies the beach even more."

He said the idea of having built up dunes on the beach has become even more important with a rising sea level and the threat of more big storms.

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