Emergency dune created in a day to protect Cape May Point from northeaster
CAPE MAY POINT — Just call it one of the quickest sand dunes ever constructed.
The borough got a phone call Tuesday morning from the state Department of Environmental Protection asking if there was anything the agency could do to help protect the town from the coming northeaster. The DEP made such phone calls to all towns along the New Jersey coast.
Mayor George “Skip” Stanger knows the weak point in this coastal town that fronts both the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay: Alexander Avenue on the bayside is the only spot that has no dune protecting it, and it’s where water came in during Hurricane Sandy. Stanger lives on the street.
“This was the funnel into Cape May Point. We had no protection,” Stanger said.
The DEP waived permits, a process that often takes months, and agreed to pay 75 percent of the costs to construct an emergency dune. Coastal geologist Stewart Farrell was consulted to come up with some quick dune designs, and a nearby company that mines sand in Lower Township, Albrecht & Heun, was called.
Trucks started rolling Tuesday afternoon and continued Wednesday morning as 812 tons of sand was brought in. Public Works Manager Bill Gibson used a backhoe Tuesday morning to craft a 60-foot-long and 6-foot-high dune. Gibson felt pretty good about the town’s chances to weather the coastal storm.
“This is the only place we had a weak point,” Gibson said.
Stanger, putting a twist on an old real estate saying, said it’s all about “protection, protection, protection.”
Borough Administrator Connie Mahon said the project will cost about $6,500, but local taxpayers will pay less than $1,700.
“That’s the cheapest dune ever built,” Mahon said.
It’s also one of the quickest. DEP spokesman Larry Ragonese said it was done under an emergency order and all “permits and other issues” were waived.
“Commissioner (Robert) Martin reached out to all the shore towns yesterday and offered any help we could to prepare for the storm,” Ragonese said.
Larry Hajna, another DEP spokesman, said other towns in the region that took the agency up on the offer were Ocean City in Cape May County, along with Beach Haven, Long Beach Township, and Mantoloking in Ocean County.
“We’re helping all of them with sand replenishment. The first and foremost goal is to protect property and people,” Hajna said.
Mahon said after the storm passes, some fine-tuning will be done to the new dune, walkways will be constructed over it, and vegetation will be planted to protect it.
Deputy Mayor Anita van Heeswyk wants to name it the “Connie dune.” Mahon is about to leave the borough after 13 years to take an administrator job in Middle Township. She said Mahon made the project happen after getting the Tuesday morning phone call from the DEP at about 10:30 a.m. and devising a plan by 2 p.m.
Mahon quickly contacted Farrell and started shopping around for sand, making arrangements to get 28 truckloads, about 650 cubic yards, and finding what she called “a really good deal.” She also had to get approvals from the governing body and it all had to be done quickly.
“Once the northeaster comes and starts taking sand away, you have to stop,” Mahon said.
Two wooden walkways over flat sand were removed, but they will be returned with a path over the new dune.
“The dune being built is not going to be perfect but now it can be tweaked. We’ll plant vegetation and make it look like other dunes in Cape May Point,” Mahon said.
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