NJ Spotlight News Article – A healthy oceanfront provides little solace for the bay sides of New Jersey’s barrier islands, where land elevation is lowest and most homes run to the water’s edge, protected from inundation by nothing more than bulkheads whose heights are becoming less effective with each centimeter of sea-level rise.

Ask any local official on the Jersey Shore — or Army Corps engineer tasked with “solving” the state’s coastal-flooding issues — and they will tell you that it is no longer the oceanfront that keeps them up at night. The fight has fallen back to the long-ignored bay sides of the islands, and time is running out.

The first clues on how this battle will unfold came with the Corps’ 2019 Back Bays study, which was born out of the wreckage of Superstorm Sandy. The report concluded that the state’s 950-square-mile back-bay region will soon be incurring $1.57 billion in annual damages if drastic flood-mitigation measures are not implemented. Squeezed between pages on proposals for colossal infrastructure, like storm-surge barriers and floodgates, was a section exploring something less traditional and distinctly Dutch: nature-based features, like marshland restoration.

While the study’s proposed $21 billion worth of storm-surge barriers spanning inlets up and down the coast remain far-off, elements of the study’s more natural solutions are already in motion — and the results are encouraging, especially for wildlife.

Rethinking flood infrastructure