SEA ISLE CITY - A dredge pumping tons of sand on Cape May County beaches moved to Sea Isle City this week for a $3.5 million undertaking that will cause some temporary beach closings as work moves

south.

The large-scale, $20.5 million beach replenishment, which is funded by the state and four coastal municipalities, recently finished in Strathmere, Upper Township, and will head to Stone Harbor and North Wildwood by September.

"I can't overemphasize how much needed this is - from years of erosion," Sea Isle City Mayor Leonard Desiderio said Tuesday. "It's not every year you can get this type of project."

Sea Isle City will receive about 400,000 cubic yards of sand to stock beaches from First to 15th streets and from 40th to 52nd streets, Desiderio said.

Through a cost-sharing agreement with the state, Sea Isle City is paying about $900,000, or 25 percent, he said.

The hulking offshore dredge churns sand slush at the sea floor and operates like a gigantic vacuum cleaner, pumping sand through wide tubes and onto beaches. It has become a familiar sight for sunbathers this summer.

The dredging will close beaches near the work sites, an obstacle Desiderio sees as an inconvenience - but a necessity.

"It'll be a nuisance for some people, but it'll be over very shortly and we'll reap the benefits of having the larger beach and the protection," he said.

From Sea Isle City, the dredge will move to Stone Harbor to pump sand on beaches from 98th Street to 111th Street.

Stone Harbor will pay about $637,000 through the same cost-sharing plan with the state.

Borough Administrator Kenneth Hawk said Stone Harbor expects to receive final permits from the Army Corps of Engineers at the end of the week.

Stone Harbor officials first thought the beach fill would hit the borough sometime in September, but a tentative timetable now has work starting the last week in August.

"There's never really a good time to do a beach replenishment because you're going to interfere with somebody's plans," Hawk said. "Our experience with beach replenishment is they work quickly and once they're done the people can begin using the beaches again."

The state Department of Environmental Protection and the contractor, Great Lakes Dredging Company, will hold a public meeting at Stone Harbor Borough Hall to discuss the project and answer questions. The meeting is Aug. 18 at 4:30 p.m.

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