The news that land and home owners in Ocean County's most Superstorm-ravaged section have waited more than four years to hear, finally arrives.

Point Pleasant Beach (courtesy NJDEP)
Point Pleasant Beach (courtesy NJDEP)

Restoration and reinforcement of beaches and dunes on the northern barrier peninsula, from Mantoloking to Seaside Park now has a Spring 2017 start date.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced today that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $92,000,000 contract to Cranford-based Weeks marine

The contract covers Phase One of the 14-mile project. State officials anticipate that the actual cost will swell to about $128,000,000 as remaining access easements are collected.

On the priority list are southern Mantoloking, Lavallette, Toms River, Seaside Heights and Seaside Park. Work in Bay Head, northern Mantoloking, Point Pleasant Beach and Berkeley Township will be contingent on the acquisition of remaining easement agreements.

Two storms, cobbled together at sea, walloped the Barnegat Peninsula, destroying tens of thousands of homes, businesses and public and private structures, flooding thousands more, and creating hundreds of billions in revenue loss.

State environmental officials contend that sections without correctly-engineered beaches and dunes took the worst damage.

The project has encountered fierce opposition from land owners, especially in sections of Mantoloking, Bay Head and Point Pleasant Beach.

Bay Head property owners, whose stone revetment was paid and built through by home owners scores of years ago, have a February 5 court date as they pursue a decision of whether a publicly-funded project in front of a privately-funded one that serves the same purpose is necessary.

Recovery Continues Two Weeks After Superstorm Sandy
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Dune and beach fortification along four miles of sea wall through Mantoloking and Brick loom as key components of the project. DEP also enlisted the state Department of Transportation for enhanced protection of Route 35, completely rebuilt since 2012 and the main coastal evacuation route from the northern barrier peninsula.

The wall, composed of steel sheet pilings rooted below the sand surface, is considered by DEP to be "emergency backup protection" behind the rebuilt beaches and dunes. Seaside Heights officials also considered a similar project.

DEP estimates that the number of holdouts represent about 35 percent of the owners. About 350 of the required 545 easements have been obtained, either voluntarily or by condemnation.

"We're grateful to the citizens who have stepped up and provided the easements, which are a legal right of access," Hajna said. As for the remainder, he added, "We hope that [they] will understand why we're proceeding in this fashion, and the importance of having these beaches."

He said that, whether through contribution, condemnation or court, DEP plans to acquire all necessary easements "one way or another."

Ortley Beach post-storm dune
Ortley Beach dunes barely survived the weekend blizzard. (Dino Flammia, Townsquare Media NJ)

DEP contends that the engineered systems of dunes and beaches "are proven to protect lives, property and infrastructure, a major goal of the Christie Administration in the aftermath of Sandy."

Work will proceed in sections of about 1,000 feet each, and continue right through Summer, according to DEP's Larry Hajna.

State officials anticipate that heavy machinery on the shore during prime tourism months stands a good chance of push-back and efforts at compromise. Hajna said that officials are sensitive to the matter, but that safety considerations must stand alongside the imperative of tourism dollars that drive the Shore economy.

"You really have to balance getting the project done, which is the most important thing, with making sure that people who go to beaches...have an enjoyable experience."

Hajna said that because funding stems from federal and state sources, municipalities are not obliged to pay a share of the cost, or to set aside funds for maintenance between visits by the Army Corps.

"Beaches naturally erode and shift," Hajna said, "and that's all accounted for in the project design." In other words, the Army Corps will be responsible for ongoing maintenance, paid through state and federal sources. The local share is covered by New Jersey's Shore Protection Fund (SPF).

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Lieutenant Colonel Michael Bliss, District Commander of the Army Corps' Philadelphia District, called it one of the largest beach-fill contracts in the Corps' history.

Replenishment will entail transfer of about 11,000,000 cubic yards of offshore sand to the waterside.

Most dunes will reach a height of 22 feet above sea level, behind beaches that are between 100 and 300 feet wide and eight-and-a-half-feet above sea level.

Ongoing maintenance ensues for the next 50 years.

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