Beach access

Kim Gelman, of Margate, checks out the damaged part of a bulkhead at Adams Ave and the beach in Margate.

Edward Lea

Just when local towns had started to build up their beaches and beach protection following Hurricane Sandy, the March 6 northeaster churned up the shoreline and caused moderate flooding in bayfront areas through several high tides.

 In Margate, though, flooding took place in several beach-block streets due to faulty or breached bulkheads — while at the same time, standing water built up along bulkheads on the beach side throughout much of the city, turning many stairways into entranceways to puddles.

“We have a lot of repairs to make to the bulkhead as a result of recent storms,” said Public Works Commissioner Brenda Taube.

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Two bulkheads, at Lancaster and Kenyon avenues, were essentially “lost” after Sandy and need to be reconstructed, said Margate Engineer Ed Walberg. Emergency contracts have been awarded, Walberg said, and Margate Public Works Director Frank Ricciotti said a contractor has been hired and equipment is in place at those locations.

Damage to the other bulkheads was minor, both said, though Walberg said that following the March 6 storm, “just because of the number of (above-average) high tides, every beach block had water. It wasn’t just the two that didn’t have bulkheads.”

At high tide as late as three days after the storm, large areas of the beach at the end of town near Longport were completely covered by water at high tide, the ocean having overtopped the highest part of the beach and flowed into areas of standing water.

A general beach maintenance permit allows the city to carve out gullies for standing water to drain out to the sea, which several bulldozers began to do starting that weekend.

“For the beach itself, damage was pretty mild,” Ricciotti said. “Though it did get a pretty good hit last weekend.”

There was also significant damage to beach stairs, Ricciotti said, with steps damaged or lost at at least half the street ends in the city.

Walberg said that the intent is to have full beach access ready for the upcoming summer season,with “no disruption” to residents and visitors.

In the meantime, Ricciotti said, “If people want to go to the beach, there are still handicapped access (points) at 14-15 streets. So there’s still access to the beach.”

The handicapped entrance points extend out from the bulkhead and include a removable plank that can be inserted before storms to close off the opening to the beach.

Two or three have been built every year for seven years, Ricciotti said, with Walberg adding that three new locations have been built at Clarendon, Adams and Thurlow avenues.

The new handicapped entraceway was a surprise to Kim and Craig Gelman, who returned last week to inspect their second floor condominium just off Adams Avenue. But the state of the bulkhead was the biggest surprise.

“They have to redo the whole thing,” Kim Gelman said, looking at the openings plugged with  sea grass. “They can’t leave it like this.”

Craig Gelman added that they had been told for the last five to 10 years that the bulkheads would eventually be replaced.

“Those are in pretty bad shape. look at them, they’re falling apart,” Craig Gelman said. “But they still hold the water back, right? ... Though I hate to say it, maybe they should make the bulkheads a couple of feet higher. In the end, it comes down to what the engineers say. It’s kind of a tradeoff: Do you want flooding or do you want views?”

Up the beach in Ventnor, there was a similar wearing down of the beach during this month’s storm, though dunes mostly protected the beach blocks from flooding. There was some damage to some pilings beneath the Ventnor Pier, though it was unclear if that was entirely from Sandy or whether it was worsened by the March storm.

Ventnor and Atlantic City officials are scheduled to meet with the Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday to discuss emergency beach replenishment work for damage following Sandy, Ventnor Mayor Mike Bagnell said.

“They’ll be filling back in what eroded and repairing the dunes damaged by Sandy,” Bagnell said.

In Brigantine, a recent Army Corps replenishment project at the north end held up well following the March storm, said Public Works Director Ernie Purdy.

“We’re hanging in there,” Purdy said. “The seawall’s very good. It was a true northeaster, with a three-to-four day (above-average) high tide, but the island fared very well.”

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