The below replaces an earlier version.
WASHINGTON - With a federal replenishment project likely in 2022, Stone Harbor may not be guaranteed sand from Hereford Inlet.
In 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) invoked provisions of the 1982 Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA), complicating a hydraulic replenishment project for Seven Mile Island.
The USFWS argued that the CBRA barred the use of federal dollars for the borrowing of sand from the inlet. A temporary solution was cobbled together, costing the state and Stone Harbor funds not planned for the replenishment.
In 2019, Stone Harbor received no beach replenishment as part of that year’s federal project after having rejected a proposal that the borough shave its protective dunes to supply sand for the beaches.
U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-2nd) was able to arrange a meeting with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, resulting in a letter from Bernhardt agreeing with the position that the act does not bar the borrowing of sand for purposes of federal beach nourishment.
The National Audubon Society sued in federal court July 1, seeking to overturn Bernhardt’s interpretation, citing a danger to the safety of life and property, as well as a degradation of important wildlife areas.
The government Nov. 6 filed a motion to dismiss the suit and the Audubon Society, supported by the Democracy Forward Foundation, filed a response Nov. 9. The briefing is to conclude in January 2021.
The Audubon Society is requesting a permanent injunction barring the use of inlet sand. By the time the courts rule in the dispute, there will also likely be a new secretary of the interior.