OCEAN CITY — Residents from the island’s southern end filled the City Council meeting room Thursday night and demanded that they be included in a beach-replenishment project starting Saturday.
A replenishment scheduled prior to Hurricane Sandy will restore sand between Beach Road and 14th Street, and since the storm residents outside that northern area have clamored to be included as well.
The southern end of the island was one of the hardest hit areas in Cape May County. Waves pushed sand through the streets and homeowners had to dig to get in their homes.
Some sand was pushed back on the beaches, but much of it was eroded out to sea. Some people are worried they won’t have protection in the next storm. Others said they will have no beaches to enjoy this summer, and still other are concerned about losing renters.
“I don’t like paying for a beach tag and not being able to sit on the beach,” said homeowner Al Grohe.
All the seats in the meeting room were filled, and people lined up along the rear and side walls. More than a dozen property owners spoke publicly about their concerns and most of the room applauded the speakers.
“My wife and I have traveled all over the world and Corsons Inlet is one of the most beautiful places we've ever seen,” said resident Bill Stanwood, who said he is on the beach almost every day.
The city sent a letter in November to the Army Corps of Engineers requesting that it include the southern end of the island in its replenishment project. It is still negotiating that extension with the federal agency.
On the north end, the dredge will be replacing 1.8 million cubic yards of sand at a rate of more than 19,000 cubic yards a day.
The cost of the project prior to Sandy was $10.3 million, which is split between the federal government, state Department of Environmental Protection and the city. The supplemental sand to make up for what was lost during Sandy will cost $5.5 million, to be paid entirely by the federal government.
About $370,000 of the project cost will also go to repair stormwater outfall pipes. That portion will be split between the state and the city.
Knowing that, homeowners south of the approved area have asked why the dredge does not just replenish their beaches now while it’s here. The primary cost of a replenishment project is moving the dredge to the location because there are few dredge companies that operate on the East Coast.
“The best possible end right now is to keep that dredge here and fill our beaches,” said resident William Booth.
Mayor Jay Gillian promised he would do everything he legally could to re-nourish those beaches, but stressed that the city is bound by state and federal regulations. The possibility of endangered migrating piping plovers landing on one portion of the beach in the southern end is one issue.
“When it comes to the DEP and the Army Corps, they are the two groups of people you do not want to mess with,” he said.
Business Administrator Mike Dattilo said the city has been working on the situation daily. He said the goal for years has been to include the southern end in a recurring schedule of replenishments along with the north end.
While he said he did not expect an imminent decision, he also said there have been some positive discussions recently.
“We have very, very encouraging signs,” he said.
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