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Sacco-Cunningham Bill Extending Eligibility To Public Access Walkways For Shore Protection Funding Clears Committee

A view of the Senate Chambers from the 2010-2011 Senate Reorganization.

Measure To Help Restore Storm-Ravaged Walkways Along Hudson River

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Nicholas J. Sacco and Sandra Bolden Cunningham that would extend eligibility to public access walkways for consideration on the shore protection project priority list and for funding from the Shore Protection Fund, was unanimously approved yesterday by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee.

“Without the help that this bill could offer the entire Hudson River Walkway program, which we have been collectively working toward for so many years, our region is in serious jeopardy. Condo owners and private entities that are responsible for maintaining waterfront walkways must be given the assistance they need to so that this precious public resource continues to be available to everyone,” said Senator Sacco, D-Hudson and Bergen.

The bill, S-2620, would direct the Commissioner of Environmental Protection, in developing the priority ranking system for Shore Protection Fund projects, to include for consideration any project that would provide for the protection, stabilization, restoration, or maintenance of the shore associated with a public access walkway, provided that the walkway serves as a public access corridor spanning multiple municipalities.

In addition, the bill would amend current law concerning funding for shore protection projects to specify that projects meeting this criteria would be eligible to receive funding from the Shore Protection Fund. Created in 1992, the Shore Protection Fund allocates funds to protect public and private property and infrastructure from coastal storm damage, erosion and shoreline migration, and sea-level rise.

“In years to come, we can expect to see storms of great magnitude batter the eastern coastline and cause considerable damage to public access land. Residents should not have to bear the onerous cost of repairing the damage caused to waterfront walkways by catastrophic storms. This bill will bring parity to Hudson County and ensure that landowners will be able to apply for state assistance, just like those with property damage on the Jersey shore,” said Senator Cunningham, D-Hudson.

Under this bill, the Hudson River Walkway would be eligible for funding from the Shore Protection Fund. The Hudson River Walkway is a 30-foot wide pathway constructed at the edge of the Hudson River extending over 18 linear miles from Bayonne to the George Washington Bridge. The ongoing deterioration of the Hudson River Walkway was compounded by Hurricane Sandy, which caused damage that has been estimated to require millions of dollars in repairs.

Current regulations from the Department of Environmental Protection require the owners of adjacent buildings to maintain the walkway, and to provide free, unobstructed access to the walkway 24 hours a day. The bill would ease the burden of landowners in restoring the walkway, especially following disastrous storms, and clarify that projects to protect access to the Hudson shoreline are eligible to apply for state funding just as are projects to protect public access to the Atlantic coastline.

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