LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP, N.J. —
"It's like a bad drug habit," said Chad Nelsen, the environmental director of the Surfrider Foundation, a national organization dedicated to preserving beaches and oceans. "Once you start, you can't stop."
Still, it seems to work. Some residents on Long Beach Island on Wednesday credited high dunes and wide beaches built as part of replenishment efforts there for keeping destruction from being even worse.
The northern barrier island that suffered the worst damage from Sandy is the longest developed stretch of New Jersey's 127-mile coastline without the help of federal replenishment projects.
The federal government pays for much of the beach protection programs. Including state and local contributions, shore protection programs with federal involvement from Manasquan to Cape May have cost taxpayers $475 million since 1988.
Peter Kasabach, executive director of the planning advocacy group New Jersey Future, says that subsidy, along with federal flood insurance that encourages rebuilding, is problematic.
"We've built in places that we shouldn't have built and now those places are becoming even more hazardous and more expensive to stay in," he said. "As we grow and develop, we should make sure we don't continue to invest in those places."
He suggested bans on building in some sensitive beach areas, or requirements that homes be built farther from the ocean.
The Surfrider Foundation's Nelsen said he hopes that New Jersey communities at least consider rebuilding in different places, which he said has never been done on a large scale in a U.S. oceanfront.
"We're about to spend some ungodly sum of money to restore the coast," he said. "Let's make sure we spent it wisely."