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Projects to reduce back bay flooding still decade away

VENTNOR — A draft plan to lessen back-bay flooding in the state should be ready for public comment soon, but construction is still almost a decade away, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Environmental Protection.

It takes a long time to get congressional approval and funding lined up, William Dixon, director of the DEP’s Division of Coastal Engineering, said at a meeting last week at the Ventnor Educational Community Complex.

That’s why the earliest the plan can be final is 2021, and the first construction won’t happen until at least 2026, he said.

More than 100 people turned out to hear updates on the $3 million New Jersey Back Bays Flood Risk Management Study being conducted by the two agencies, and to give input on problem areas and what should be done.

The Army Corps project manager for the study, J.B. Smith, described the possibility of building sea walls of about 10-11 feet in height — 3 to 4 feet above the 7-foot bulkheads people are familiar with now — along the back bays of barrier islands from Cape May to Brigantine.

But such structures would probably not be recommended for islands north of Brigantine, they said.

Smith also proposed building flood gates at the Cape May Canal, Cape May Inlet, Townsends Inlet and Great Egg Harbor Inlet. But DEP and corps staff stressed all discussions are preliminary.

“All those examples he just described are still in very early phases,” Dixon said. “We are not proposing right now to put a wall around Ocean City. That’s one of the options that might be available.”

They described natural barrier creation such as living shorelines, but the structural options seemed to have much more of an effect on reducing flooding, according to the presentations.

Residents in attendance expressed concern that fixes would take so long to be built, and asked for more attention to be paid to dredging and beneficial reuse of dredge materials.

Dixon said the study, which is being funded half by the state and half by the corps, must be finished before any construction ideas can qualify for federal funding.

When the study was announced in late 2016, the corps said it would take three years to complete.

The back-bay area is the network of interconnected tidal water bodies located landward of the ocean coastline in Monmouth, Ocean, Burlington, Atlantic and Cape May counties, according to the Army Corps. It encompasses about 950 square miles and 3,400 miles of shoreline.

Contact: 609-272-7219 MPost@pressofac.com Twitter @MichelleBPost Facebook.com/EnvironmentSouthJersey

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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