The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded a $63.3 million contract to build and replenish dunes on all of Absecon Island, but a group of Margate beachfront homeowners are waging a legal battle to stop the project in their city.
“We are moving forward out of public necessity,” state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Hanja said of the contract. The DEP is the project sponsor.
The contract awarded to Cranford-based Weeks Marine Inc. covers about 8 miles of shoreline.
Work is expected to start before the end of the year and be completed by October, according to the DEP.
It will build new dunes and engineered beaches in Longport and Margate and southern Ventnor. The federal government is paying 100 percent.
It also will replenish beaches in the rest of Ventnor and Atlantic City, with the federal government paying 65 percent and the state paying about 35 percent, the DEP said.
Five Margate homeowners have filed a federal lawsuit to stop the project in their city. A hearing is scheduled Dec. 13 in federal court in Camden, said their attorney Jordan Rand, of Dilworth Paxson in Philadelphia.
Rand has said he expects a ruling soon after the court date on the homeowners’ request for an injunction to stop the project.
Homeowners Steven Erlbaum, of South Barclay Avenue; Frank Binswanger Jr., of South Iroquois Avenue; John Turchi, of South Sumner Avenue; David Boath, of South Fredericksburg Avenue; and Ron Cohen, of South Argyle Avenue, are the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
The Army Corps and DEP are determined to start the project soon.
“I’m proud of the efforts of the team that has worked so hard to move this project forward,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Philadelphia District Commander Lt. Col. Michael Bliss. “When complete, the engineered dune and berm will be one system with the purpose of reducing damages to the infrastructure on the island.”
Hajna said Absecon Island is the next to last beach resiliency project to be awarded a contract for coastal New Jersey. The last is the northern Ocean County project, also postponed by homeowner lawsuits, but which may be awarded soon, Hajna said.
In Atlantic City, the Army Corps contract calls for a 200-foot-wide beach, or berm, and a dune built to an elevation of nearly 15 feet above sea level. In Ventnor, Margate and Longport, by contrast, it requires a 100-foot wide berm and a dune to an elevation of nearly 13 feet above sea level.
More than 3.8 million cubic yards of sand will be dredged from offshore areas to be used for the project, the DEP said.
The Army Corps built a series of dunes in Atlantic City and most of Ventnor in 2004 and replenished them in 2012, just before Hurricane Sandy hit. The DEP said those dunes helped to dramatically reduce damages.
Those areas were restored again in 2013, the DEP said.