The long-awaited $128,000,000 northern Ocean County beach and dune reconstruction begins with sand deposits in Ortley Beach in April, say officials of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Welcome news in Toms River. But, Brick Township's Mayor is sounding off while repairs there wait until early 2018.

Ortley Beach (NJ Dept. Environmental Protection)
Ortley Beach (NJ Dept. Environmental Protection)

In also announcing the onset of dune reconstruction on Absecon Island in Atlantic County, DEP Commissioner Bob Martin asserted out that Ortley's lack of adequate beach and dune engineering triggered the horrendous property damage left in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

NJ DEP Commissioner Bob Martin (Vin Ebenau, Townsquare Media)
NJ DEP Commissioner Bob Martin (Vin Ebenau, Townsquare Media)

"The start of these two major projects fulfills the Christie Administration's commitment of building a statewide system of engineered beaches that meets Army Corps engineering standards," Martin said in prepared comments.

Cranford-based Weeks Marine is contracted to pump about 275,000 cubic yards of sand onto Ortley in a two-week span, to create a beach stretching 225 feet wide. Then, the company shifts to the $63,000,000 Absecon Island project, returning to Ortley for dune and beach construction in the Fall.

Who's on the list, and who's on the waiting list

Crews are scheduled to work in Mantoloking, July through September; Seaside Heights, late September through October; Seaside Park, late October through late December. Brick and Normandy Beach in Toms River have an indefinite start date of Winter 2018, and Lavallette is scheduled for Spring 2018.

Brick Mayor John Ducey (Townsquare Media)
Brick Mayor John Ducey (Townsquare Media)

Point Pleasant Beach, Bay Head, and Berkeley Township would be scheduled when, and if, access easements sought by the Army Corps and DEP are collected. Bay Head home owners have taken DEP to court, arguing that the borough's rock wall has protected the borough for a century, and that there is no clear funding stream for continued maintenance.

Jenkinson's, which encompasses the bulk of the Point Pleasant Beach coastline, has set forth similar arguments for private maintenance.

But for Brick Mayor John Ducey, the township carries the responsibility for maintaining safe beach access points throughout the summer, and the calendar will reflect five years since Sandy before any Army Corps-related work begins.

Toms River Mayor Thomas Kelaher
Toms River Mayor Thomas Kelaher (Tom Mongelli, Townsquare Media NJ)

Brick Township officials had a steel revetment installed as a protective measure. Storms customarily strip away the sand that covers it.

Ducey contended that Brick Township beachfront home owners willingly complied with the Army Corps's and DEP's insistence on perpetual access easements for continued maintenance. Elsewhere on the island, the matter is still subject to litigation and possible seizure by eminent domain.

"It does not sit well that there are holdouts that will be replenished before the vulnerable beaches in Brick," Ducey said. "Every storm the steel wall is exposed and takes more of a beating and ultimately will not last as long as predicted by the State.

"Our staff has done a great job in providing residents with safe access to the ocean the past several years and we are confident that they will do a great job again this summer," Ducey said.

Toms River Mayor Tom Kelaher, on the other hand, says that sand delivery to Ortley in April is a boon to business and home owners alike.

"On numerous occasions the township has had to bring in extra sand following major nor'easters," Kelaher said. "I am very gratified that the DEP recognizes the dire condition of the dunes in Ortley Beach and will accelerate the restoration of sand on a temporary basis until the full project can be completed. We thank the DEP and Commissioner Martin for their support to our town."

Brick officials, apprised by DEP and the Army Corps on March 17, said tht the replenishment schedule revolves around the proximity of four "borrow" sites,from which sand will be extracted, to their destinations.

"From a technical perspective, we understand the equipment needs and proximity to borrow sites," said Mayor Ducey, 'but to have communities on either side receiving sand and we are not receiving it until after the 2017 hurricane season makes no sense." He did, however, express relief that the Township's fifth hurricane season without reinforced beaches would be its last.

The contract for Brick Township also requires construction of crossovers within two weeks of sand placement.

How much sand, how much money, and where it all originates

DEP anticipates that the 14-mile northern Ocean County project will require 11,000,000 cubic yards of sand, encompassing Point Pleasant Beach, Bay Head, Mantoloking, Brick, Toms River, Lavallette, Seaside Heigdhts, Seaside Park and Berkeley Township.

Atantic City from Absecon Island (NJDEP)
Atantic City from Absecon Island (NJDEP)

Weeks Marine will utilize ships called multiple-suction hopper dredges to extract and move large volumes of offshore sand closer to the coastline. A cutter-head dredge, basically a barge, then pumps the sand onto the beach through a pipeline. The work will be done in sections of 1,000 feet at a time.

DEP's plan creates dunes rising 22 feet above mean sea level, with beaches standing eight and a half feet above mean sea level, anywhre from 100 to 300 feet wide. Replenishment is projected to continue for 50 years, though state officials have yet to elaborate on the source of consistent funding.

The northern Ocean County project is paid through a 65 percent federal contribution through the 2013 Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, and a 35 percent contribution from New Jersey's $25,000,000 Shore Protection Fund.

The Absecon Island project covers just over eight miles of coast through Atlantic City and Ventnor, where the job is simply to restore beaches that already meet Army Corps specs, along with Longport and Margate. Efforts to block the project by Margate officials were stymied in April 2016, when a judge approved use of eminent domain policies.

Beaches there are planned to be 200 feet wide, with dunes 15 feet above mean sea level in Atlantic City, 13 feet above in Longport, Margate and Ventnor. The tentative schedule places work in Atlantic City and Longport, April through late June: Margate, late June through late August; and Ventnor, early September through early October.

The announcement regarding both projects drew quick and pointed response from Jeff Tittlel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, who contends that they serve more potential harm than good.

"Once again DEP the Christie Administration's plan to deal with sea level rise and climate change is just piling sand on top of a metal plate sea wall that will fail," Tittel said in prepared remarks.

"While Commissioner Martin boasts about these projects, building a sea wall will actually cause the beaches and so-called dunes to wash out even faster. Every major storm since Sandy, we have seen all of this money be washed out to sea. Without a comprehensive plan with buyouts and raising homes, the millions of dollars spent on this project will get washed out during the next storm,."

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