Government bulldozes part of dune it promised not to harm

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BERKELEY TOWNSHIP -

The leader of a group of Ocean County beachfront homeowners says the organization feels betrayed after a bulldozer flattened a section of dunes the government had promised it would not harm as part of a beach replenishment project.

Dominic Solazzo, president of the homeowners association in Berkeley Township, says he was horrified at the damage done Monday to a dune his members had painstakingly built up over 40 years.

“The bulldozer had stopped and there was still someone in the dozer…I just got in front of the dozer right here and stood my ground,” Solazzo tells News 12 New Jersey.

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Last winter, the homeowners unsuccessfully sued the state and federal government, trying to block the project. But authorities assured them in court that the dunes would not be shortened.

"We were told in confidence they would never reduce the height,” Solazzo says. “We were just caught off guard.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says that the crews bulldozed part of the dune to create a cut-through to allow heavy equipment to access the beach. They say that it is only temporary.

The agency released a statement that said in part, "...once the project is done, the level of protection will be not just restored, but improved—since the existing dune will be incorporated into the larger dune-and-beachfill system that will run continuously up to Point Pleasant Beach."

But residents say that they rebuilt that dune after Superstorm Sandy themselves. They say that they worry that their homes could be at risk from storm surge now that the dune is damaged.

“They destroyed the dune they could put a pile of sand here, but that doesn’t make the residents feel any more secure,” Solazzo says.

Solazzo says that he hopes that in the future he can work with the government to make sure this does not happen again.

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