Northern Ocean County dune project delayed. Again.
A long-awaited northern Ocean County beach and dune project was expected to go out to bid in mid-August, but once again is being pushed back further as the four-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy approaches.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection now anticipates the project will go out to bid around late September or early October. According to spokesman Bob Considine, the Army Corps of Engineers is going to allow the agency to go out to bid for the entire project, hopefully in the early fall.
"Were in various stages of the condemnation process to acquire our out outstanding easements in Bay Head, Point Pleasant Beach, and just a few in Berkeley Township," said Considine. In June, there were still 150 being sought from holdouts — people who wouldn't allow the easements on their properties necessary for the work — in northern Ocean County, according to NJDEP Commissioner Bob Martin.
The project will have a base of Mantoloking to Seaside Park and will include Bay Head, Point Pleasant and Berkeley as options for the future, according to Considine.
"We're full steam ahead. We think the project is going to go to bid soon and hopefully we can get some sand moving later this year, early in January," Considine said.
The NJDEP is down to 71 easements outstanding in Bay Head, 50 in Point Pleasant Beach and 3 in Berkeley Township. Considine said those easements represent parcels, or multiple lots owned by one person.
The Army Corps has softened its stance on the project, after initially being adamant that the entire project would not begin until all easements were obtained.
"In March, it was ruled in Superior Court that the state does have the authority to condemn private oceanfront property for the purpose of shore protection, " Considine said. "And that's all we're trying do, is bring maximum coastal protection to northern Ocean County and the entire Atlantic Coast of New Jersey."
"Once that ruling came, I think that gave the Army Corps some comfort that we could move forward."
He doesn't expect any court proceedings to slow down the process of going out to bid for on the portion covering Mantoloking to Seaside Park.
"That all takes a long time, so while that project is starting, we think that's more than enough time to get the necessary easements from Bay Head, Point Pleasant Beach and Berkeley Township based on the Superior Court's ruling," said Considine.
Opponents of the project argue the sand will continue to get washed away, but Considine was firm that there is no other alternative accept to retreat, "And that's not what's going to happen at the Jersey Shore."
Considine said anybody who questions whether dunes work need should look at the the before- and after-Sandy aerial pictures of Long Beach Island.
"Where there weren't dunes, there were damaged homes, and where there were dunes, there were protected homes," he said. "The idea that these dunes are built and the sand just washes away is really a misnomer."
Considine said the overall project template of the dunes is not just what you see above the main high water mark — and that the beach projects are made knowing there's going to be a replenishment every few years.
He acknowledged that sand is moved, but reiterated it's not a total reconstruction.
"What you're talking about is 10 percent of the volume of sand in a renourishment every three years or so, and that's factored into the cost. We know that's going to happen," said Considine.
Despite the repeated argument that a sand dune isn't needed from Bay Head homeowners who built and maintain a rock wall with private funding, Considine said, the beaches there have trouble withstanding a moderate nor'easter.
"There is no beach. There's just ocean beating up against the rock wall, and that's not what you want. What you want is an engineered beach and dune system in front of it, and that's ultimately what they'll have," he said.
Considine also said the resistance in Bay Head and Point Pleasant Beach has prevented Ortley Beach residents from getting the protection the have been seeking.
Once the bids are completed and accepted, the entire project could at least a year and possibly up to two years, Considine estimated.