Jersey Shore mayors worry dune work will hurt summer season
Work to replenish beaches and better protect communities in northern Ocean County has suffered delays in the face of an extremely cold winter. The latest projected timetable pushes much of the work into late spring and summer.
But that's when shore towns make the big bucks, so officials in the area fear the much-needed dune project will put a major dent in their busiest season.
"This is really a problem," Point Pleasant Beach Mayor Stephen Reid said. "People wait all year long to run their businesses in the summer and this is going to affect them."
According to the latest construction schedule from the Army Corps of Engineers, work is scheduled to begin in "summer of 2018" in Reid's borough, once beachfill construction is completed in Brick.
That schedule is "subject to change, based on weather, progress, and mechanical issues associated with dredging equipment."
So Reid is hoping for even further delays that would push the work back until at least September.
Steve Rochette, a spokesman for the Army Corps' Philadelphia district, said equipment for the project has been affected by the frigid temperatures. The weather has also caused sea conditions that affect operations.
Once fully completed, approximately 14 miles of coast along the Barnegat Peninsula will receive more than 11 million cubic yards of sand from approved borrow sites under the sea.
The project contractor, Weeks Marine Inc., will use multiple dredges to complete the work.
Dunes will be built to an elevation of 22 feet for most of the project area. They'll be 18 feet in Point Pleasant Beach and Seaside Heights.
The latest estimate for Seaside Heights predicts work will begin in the borough in the spring.
"I'm praying that they start in March," said Mayor Anthony Vaz. "If you're telling me you're going to do this in June and July, you can forget it."
To complete the work, the Army Corps closes off 1,000-foot sections of beach at a time. Vaz said all of the beach access ramps have already been removed in preparation for the work that was originally scheduled to begin months ago.
Vaz said if the work can't be completed by May, he'd "go to whatever extreme necessary" to postpone the work until after the summer season.
"I don't want to sound like a rebel, but I will go to the courts," Vaz said. "I have to do something. We cannot have our town go bankrupt."
Vaz noted the borough is still down $200 million in ratables since Sandy hit in 2012.
According to the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Army Corps and their contractors work hard to reduce any inconvenience.
"The Army Corps' contractors have for decades been working beach nourishment projects in the summer with few complaints," spokesman Larry Hajna said. "We all would like to see as much work done in the winter as possible, but this does present more weather challenges."
Hajna said precise scheduling was made difficult by multiple legal challenges from "uncooperative property owners" who did not want dunes built between their property and the ocean.
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