Margate’s Dune Disaster — Teachable Moment on Liberty, Constitution, Corruption

I love natural sand dunes on deserted, uninhabited islands. I enjoyed camping and hiking through them ?on the Outer Banks near the Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort, North Carolina.

However, I hate fake dunes built with pumps, pipes, bulldozers in beach towns like Atlantic City and Margate during the past 15 years.?

In his book ?Boardwalk Empire?, local judge and historian explained why the original sand dunes on the Atlantic City and Margate beaches were ?leveled? around the time Abraham Lincoln was President.

When Jonathan Pitney and Sam Richards built the first railroad to Atlantic City in 1854, the island was covered with sand dunes and ?hundreds of wet places where insects could breed?.?

Those insects annoyed tourists from the beginning. However, in 1858, a ?plague? of ?greenhead flies, gnats, and mosquitoes tormented visitors all summer long? and ?nearly closed the resort down?.

During the next few years, Atlantic City?s founders fixed this problem by leveling the dunes and filling the ponds and between them. As a bonus, visitors could now view the ocean and feel fresh ocean breezes from newly built hotels, cottages, and a Boardwalk.?

For the next 140 years, a smooth, dune-free and almost insect-free beach,? ocean views, and ocean breezes ?brought success to Atlantic City–and other beachfront downs like Margate, Ocean City, and Wildwood.

There were bad storms and floods roughly every twenty years. ??However, wide beaches–without dunes– limited the damage.?? After the Hurricane of 1944, concrete and wooden seawalls were built to give even more protection.

?I lived through the floods of 1962, 1991, and Sandy in 2012. I grew up with people who lived through and talked about the destructive floods of 1938 and 1944.

We all saw those occasional floods as a reasonable inconvenience for living so close to the ocean and back bays. Drying out, cleaning up, fixing up, and rebuilding after storms was in our DNA.?? Most homes and businesses flooded in March of 1962 and Halloween of 1991 were ready for a normal summer season by Memorial Day.

Back then, people didn?t build lavish mansions right next to the ocean. They build modest cottages that could easily be replaced after a 20 year storm.

All that changed in 1989. That October, Hurricane Hugo destroyed hundreds of lavish vacation homes in and around Charleston, Hilton Head Island and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.?? Many wealthy owners had political influence and ties to ?Dick Gephardt– a Democratic candidate for President, and powerful Majority Leader of the House of Representatives. ?Suddenly, Congress made the protection of vacation homes by the beach an urgent priority of the federal government.

During the 1990?s, ?both Democrats and Republicans in Congress gave the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hundreds of millions of dollars to ?find ways to reduce storm damage? to homes and businesses near the beach.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers then did what most government officials do when asked to fix a problem. They proposed projects that would spend billions of dollars and greatly increase their power and influence.?

They made plans to move beach sand from one place to another from New England to Texas.? Part of their plan was to build artificial piles of sand on the beaches in front of Atlantic City, Ventnor, Margate, and Longport.

Most local home and business owners opposed this plan. They were happy with the clean, flat beaches created by the founders of Atlantic City some 150 years ago.?

However, their voices were drowned out by the lawyers, engineers, contractors, and unions eager to make fortunes from government contracts to build the dunes.

?Progressive? environmental groups also supported these dune projects.?? In the past environmentalists opposed engineering projects that interfered with the natural movement of sand by ocean currents. However, today?s most influential ?environmental? groups are out to advance a leftist political agenda.

They love building ugly piles of sand in front of beach front homes punish ?the rich?.? They love to falsely accuse beachfront homeowners who oppose them of ?selfishly? putting other homes in danger of floods to enjoy their ?privileged? ocean view. (TRUTH: Most flooding comes from back bays. A 100 year storm strong enough to destroy other homes would melt the largest sand dunes in less than an hour).

Margate voted to oppose this dune project in court, but they lost. The dunes were built in June.?? The water and insect problems they were afraid of came true last month.

The dune issue is not the real issue. The real issues are liberty and Constitution. The key to liberty is to leave people free to make the most important decisions affecting their own lives.

The people of Margate–and every beach town– should be free to decide for themselves what their own beach should look like.?

The key to Article I, Section 8 and the 9th and 10th Amendments of our Bill of Rights America’s Constitution is that the Federal Government (including its Army Corps of Engineers) should only have power to decide national matters, while people in each State, County, and community should decide (and pay for) things that affect only their own community.

First two photos, and Home Page photo reposted from Ventnor NJ Community Forum Facebook page.? Bottom photograph reprinted from Shore News Today (Current Newspapers)

  • Seth Grossman

    Seth Grossman is executive director of Liberty And Prosperity, which he co-founded in 2003. It promotes American liberty and limited constitutional government through weekly radio and in-person discussions, its website, email newsletters and various events. Seth Grossman is also a general practice lawyer.

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