Avalon, Brigantine, Ocean City, Stone Harbor and the southern tip of Cape May County will all have wider beaches next summer because of federal replenishment projects scheduled this fall and winter.
The projects will not only bring more sand to these South Jersey shorelines, but they may also bring a variety of other improvements to dune walkways, dune fencing and stormwater outfall pipes.
While they are fighting a losing battle against nature, these replenishment projects are considered essential for most shore communities every few years to attract tourists and for protection from storms.
Bids on all these federal projects are due this month and work on each must be completed by the beginning of March. The Army Corps of Engineers plans to award three separate contracts for the work this fall, each of which are estimated to cost between $5 million to $10 million or more.
The largest replenishment this year will be in Ocean City’s northern end, where more than a million cubic yards of sand will be pumped onto more than two miles of beach.
“At high tide the water’s almost to the dunes, so obviously there is little space for people to sit,” said Thomas Mullineaux, chief of operations for Ocean City’s beach patrol.
This will be the third major project to refill sand on Ocean City’s northern end in the past four years. A 2008 replenishment added 800,000 cubic yards of sand, and then a 2010 project added 1.8 million cubic yards of sand from the northern edge to 17th Street.
Ocean City’s beach nourishment is part of a contract to also restore the northeastern end of Brigantine, which gets replenished every six years.
“It’s an area that sees the largest erosion on our beaches,” said Brigantine City Engineer Ed Stinson. “From 1,000 feet north of the seawall down to Roosevelt Boulevard, that’s been our hot-spot for many years, and it’s been the area that every one of our replenishments has focused on.”
The constant coming and going of waves on beaches pulls sand out to sea or redeposits it elsewhere. In a natural state, barrier islands would move and change as coastal erosion occurs, but that obviously does not work with permanent human structures now on almost every barrier island along the East Coast.
Certain areas are eroded more than others and need replenishment every few years to maintain space for bathers and defend against storms. In some situations, governments use a so-called backpassing project to transport sand from the southern end of an island back to the northern end where it came from.
Avalon and Stone Harbor completed a backpassing project this past spring. The two communities had a replenishment in 2011, but Hurricane Irene swept away much of that sand, so this year’s work is planned to restore what was lost.
Due to constant erosion, these projects also include several options to add more sand if necessary as work goes on.
A number of other improvements may be completed during the course of the work, dependent on whether it is deemed necessary and within budget during the planning process after a bid is awarded.
The project in Ocean City may include repairing seven stormwater outfall pipes. In Avalon, Brigantine and Stone Harbor, the contractor may improve handicap beach access, plant dune grass and add dune fencing. In Cape May and Lower Township, the work could include outfall repair, handicap beach access improvements and removing vegetation around ponds in that area.
The cost of the project at the bottom of Cape May County and in Ocean City and Brigantine will be split between the Army Corps, state and the municipalities involved. The project in Avalon and Stone Harbor will be fully funded by the federal government.
The federal government typically pays 65 percent of the cost of its projects. The state and local governments involved pay the remaining 35 percent. County governments also sometimes contribute.
Of that remaining 35 percent, the state pays 75 percent and the municipality pays 25 percent, which equates to about 26 percent and 9 percent of the total project cost, respectively.
For state-run projects, the state pays 75 percent and the local government pays 25 percent.
On-going state coastal engineering projects include the beach replenishment at Atlantic City’s northern end at Revel Beach, rip-rap work in Tuckerton and Downe Township and the restoration of Thompsons Beach in Maurice River Township.
Replenishment costs have been steadily increasing in recent decades due to a lack of competition that has a handful of companies transporting their dredges up and down the coast. That is an expensive process considering the cost of gas to move these heavy machines.
Brigantine actually got a small replenishment project last year, but it had sand trucked in from a nearby quarry because that was dramatically cheaper than transporting a dredge to the island.
The Cape May Meadows area, which gets renourishment approximately every four years, is more expensive relative to the amount of sand being pumped because it is forced to use a different type of dredge than most other projects in New Jersey.
The locations where dredges get their sand from are carefully chosen to avoid impacts to the coastal environment as well as to avoid anything hazardous. In the case of Cape May Point, there is an underwater cache of old World War II munitions off its coast that the Army Corps must avoid pumping onto beaches.
So, instead of pumping sand directly from the seafloor and onto the beach, a boat has to travel about five miles out to sea, collect sand, then ship it closer to the coast where it is then heaped on the beach.
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