The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Monday they had no choice but to start work on the $63.3 million Absecon Island beach-replenishment project during the busy summer 2017 season, a move that has angered both businesses and residents up and down the island.
“For the dredging industry, their safest and most efficient use of these dredges is often during the summer, because of calmer seas. So if we specifically exclude summer work, we again risk pricing ourselves out of the bidding market and not being able to build these projects at all,” said Stephen Rochette, spokesman for the Army Corps.
For the past couple of weeks, both residents and businesses from Atlantic City to Longport have complained that the work and the standing water left at the project site in Margate has negatively impacted their summer.
Rochette said the scheduling of the beach projects is tied to a variety of factors, including real estate acquisition, legal proceedings related to the project, equipment availability and project size.
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers understands the importance of the summer months to the residents, businesses and visitors along the Jersey Shore,” Rochette said. “We understand how inconvenient a 24/7 construction job can be, especially during the peak vacation season and can assure you we are working as fast as we can to complete projects.”
Danielle Schurdich of Bensalem, Pennsylvania, and her friends walked along the Boardwalk in Ventnor from Dorset Avenue, searching for the next open beach. Lugging coolers, beach chairs and pushing a baby stroller, the group of women were frustrated to learn that the beach would be closed during their vacation week.
“It’s inconvenient. They should have done it after Labor Day,” Schurdich said.
In Margate, the city has taken the corps and the state Department of Environmental Protection to court over the project. On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Renee Marie Bumb granted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ request to continue work on the dunes. The decision overruled Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez’s order to temporarily stop the project in the city. Following Bumb’s decision, Mendez ordered the DEP and Margate to work together on a solution.
The Army Corps project calls for the placing of 3.8 million cubic yards of sand on eight miles of beach on Absecon Island, from Atlantic City to Longport. However, on some beaches, visitors find construction equipment noise, pipes and machinery to pump sand.
“It’s also important to note there is a limited number of dredges that can handle beachfill oper-ations,” Rochette said.
When completed, the project in Atlantic City will create a 200-foot-wide berm and a dune built to an elevation of nearly 15 feet above sea level, according to a statement from the DEP. In the Downbeach municipalities, a 100-foot-wide berm and a dune to an elevation of nearly 13 feet above sea level will be built.
“They have to do some in the summer, I’m sure. It’s tough that it happens to be us, but we have to deal with it,” said Chuck Carlino, a Ventnor resident.
Absecon Island municipalities are not the first towns in the region that have dealt with work being done during the summer. Over the past couple of years, municipalities along Long Beach Island have had to deal with a similar situation as the contractors completed work on a $128 million beach project.
Long Beach Township Mayor Joseph Mancini said the township had to deal with construction on their beaches during the past two summers.
“Sure it’s a pain, and we had to move people off the beach, but it had to be done,” Mancini said. “If you put it off, there might be a chance that the money will be gone.”