ATLANTIC COUNTY, NJ - Venice Park is an unusual island neighborhood in northeastern Atlantic City, New Jersey. It is surrounded by a waterway known locally as the Beach Thoroughfare on three sides, and on its remaining side by the Penrose Canal. In addition, the Venice Park Lagoon flows through the interior of the island.
When Atlantic City adopted its first flood map in February 1978, many existing Venice Park homes were 5 to 8 feet below the base flood elevation (BFE). Land erosion from tidal flooding was an ongoing problem, impacting both lot sizes and property values. Many Venice Park homeowners tried to fight the erosion with private and often unpermitted bulkheads of varied design and materials.
The New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) was founded in 1984 and was charged with investing a percentage of casino revenues in community economic development projects. One such investment was a mitigation strategy to prevent land erosion in Venice Park. Construction on the “Venice Park Bulkhead Project” began in 2008. The CRDA identified four areas in Venice Park that suffered the most damage from land erosion and determined that 143 property owners in those areas were losing land. The installation of steel bulkheads was recommended.
The CRDA initially reviews a potential project for eligibility and consistency with its mission and the Project Review Committee then performs an in-depth analysis. The CRDA saw the project as an opportunity to preserve homes in Venice Park. After the project was approved, the CRDA partnered with the Venice Park Civic Association in a large scale community outreach effort that overcame multiple challenges. Individual project approvals, legal permissions, and access rights from each of the 143 property owners were a few of those challenges; however, all 143 property owners approved the project.
The engineering aspect of the Venice Park Bulkhead Project was as complex as the legal issues. For example, constructing the bulkheads to prevent damage to nearby homes required a high degree of skill and planning. The project was completed in 2009 at a final cost of $14 million, wholly paid by casino revenues.
Lot erosion in Venice Park is now minimal and affected property values have stabilized. All unpermitted bulkheads on participating properties have been replaced with the best, most effective engineered bulkhead designs available.