AVALON - With two large dredge projects going simultaneously in Avalon and Sea Isle City, the work to rebuild beaches is drawing the eyes of curious spectators.
"It's an amazing task," said Gary Goll, a retiree from Cape May Court House who fishes on the Avalon jetty near Eighth Street. "But Mother Nature has a knack of undoing whatever we do."
Avalon and neighboring Sea Isle City are partners in a $10.4 million project that will pump more than 1 million cubic yards of sand onto their beaches by July 1. Both municipalities' beaches were heavily eroded during last winter's storms.
The two municipalities initially expected to fund the work on their own, but the state said last month it would pay for 75 percent of the costs.
Dredge company Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. of Illinois is using two dredges to pump sand onto the beaches in both towns at once. The two hulking red dredges float in Townsends Inlet, where they look like piers in the water.
The dredges use powerful jets to stir sand from the inlet floor and suck it through thick pipes and onto the beaches, where it shoots out in a sand slurry. Heavy machinery forms the sand piles into a shoreline.
"I expect there to be a nice little tourist attraction," Sea Isle City Mayor Leonard Desiderio said.
He has toy trucks at home, but 2-year-old Chase Benedetti wanted to see the real heavy equipment in action Monday.
Chase's family took him to the jetty near Eight Street to see watch the dredges, earthmovers and excavators work.
"Look at that, Chase," the boy's mother, Chris Spix, of Portland, Ore., said, picking up her son so he could watch the yellow excavator in the distance pick up a piece of metal pipe as if it were a toothpick.
"He likes to wear hard hats," she said.
The Avalon Beach Patrol had lifeguards at 12th Street making sure no one tried to go onto the beach where the heavy machinery was working.
Elizabeth Shobert, of Blue Bell, Pa., observed the work by 13th Street in Avalon, where to her right she could see the recently pumped sand where a new beach will form. Straight ahead and to the right, she could see exposed rocks and a deep cliff to the ocean.
"We've been coming down here for years, and we've never seen it this bad," said Shobert, who said she has watched the dredge work for the past couple of days.
"Last night there were a ton of people (watching)," she said.
"I'm happy because when our family comes, it will be nice for them to come up and lay on the beach," she said.
"I think it's going to be taken away again," said her son, Thomas Shobert.
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