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Army Corps will use hundreds of millions to restore beaches in South Jersey

PLEASANTVILLE, N.J. — Wider beaches and protective dunes are closer to reality for those South Jersey beach towns that have not previously had projects built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In its second report to Congress detailing how it will spend its roughly $5 billion allotment of Hurricane Sandy disaster aid, the Army Corps said it plans to use hundreds of millions of dollars to restore beaches for the first time in Ship Bottom, Beach Haven and Long Beach Township, other than Brant Beach. Margate, Longport, the south end of Ocean City, Strathmere and Sea Isle City also are included.

There is no timeline for how and when the projects will be built because there still are numerous decisions that have to be finalized, said Ed Voigt, spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers, Philadelphia District.

Projects on the list also include constructing a seawall along Absecon Inlet in Atlantic City, Voigt said. “From an engineer’s standpoint, that project is really ready to go.”

The projects in south Ocean City, Strathmere and Sea Isle City had been designed in the 1990s and did not include dunes, but Voigt said corps policy now requires dunes and wider beaches.

“When we build south Ocean City, Strathmere and Sea Isle City, that project will include a dune,” Voigt said.

The report lists 18 projects that have been designed and approved, but have not been built. It estimates the total cost of building the projects in Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Virginia to be more than $2.1 billion. Projects for South Jersey are estimated to cost about $180 million. Voigt said the estimates may change significantly, either up or down, as construction costs become more clear.

“This is important news for our region, for our tourism-based economy and for the countless businesses and jobs that depend on the beaches of the Jersey Shore for their livelihood,” U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2 said in a news release.

Earlier this year, the Army Corps began putting sand back on numerous beaches in South Jersey to repair damage to the beach width and dunes that happened during Sandy and Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. Work has been nearly completed in Stone Harbor, while work was completed earlier this year in Avalon and Brigantine and on Tuesday in Ocean City’s north end. Work is expected to begin in the coming weeks for Brant Beach and Harvey Cedars on Long Beach Island, Atlantic City and Ventnor and work will begin in the fall in Cape May.

“We knew this was going to come, we just hoped it would have come a month earlier,” Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian said about the latest Army Corps plans during the City Council’s meeting Thursday night.

The council’s meetings have been attended in recent months by people from the city’s south end who have complained about the slim state of their beaches, primarily from 50th Street south. The city has been trucking sand into that area, but locals have been demanding much more sand.

City Business Administrator Mike Dattilo said the city is optimistic that it would receive its sand in the upcoming winter, even though a schedule has not yet been released. Gillian said city officials also have a conference call with Department of Environmental Protection officials today to discuss easements in the area of the future replenishment.

“We’re going to continue to get questions and answer when, how and all that,” Gillian said.

Ocean City, Sea Isle City and Strathmere all have had beach replenishments in the past in some form, but not from the Army Corps to the degree now planned. Ocean City’s south end was last replenished in a state partnership in 2000, while Sea Isle and Strathmere saw a replenishment last year through a state partnership.

The Army Corps said in the report it also will do an expedited limited review of every project on the list to look at the economic benefit, how the projects will increase flood protection, and how long the projects will last. Some communities may need to adopt or improve their flood ordinances to address sea level rise and the possibility of stronger and more frequent coastal storms due to climate change, the report said.

Voigt said he does not anticipate any of the South Jersey projects requiring major changes during this review process.

Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Hajna said the agency received the report late Thursday and is reviewing it.

Two projects authorized by Congress that were never built were not on the list. Projects to restore Reeds Beach in Middle Township and the Villas in Lower Township are designed as an ecological restoration, Voigt said. “One of the guidelines for what would be included in this Sandy recovery would be projects primarily to reduce storm (damage.)”

swatson@pressofac.com
 

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