Posted on March 6, 2017
By Nanette LoBiondo Galloway, ShoreNewsToday
A contractor for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will start the $63 million Absecon Island shore protection project in mid-April at either end of the island, with a goal of concluding the work in Ventnor by mid-October.
Representatives from the Army Corps along with those from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, contractor Weeks Marine and local municipalities met at Longport Borough Hall Thursday, Feb. 23 for a pre-construction meeting to discuss project-related issues.
Weeks Marine, Inc., of Cranford, Union County, was awarded a $63.3 million contract on Nov. 23, 2016 to complete the Absecon Island Coastal Storm Reduction project.
The “rolling” project will pump 3.8 million cubic yards of sand from the ocean floor onto 8 miles of the island’s oceanfront beach from Brigantine Inlet to Great Egg Harbor Inlet, according to Army Corps public affairs officer Steve Rochette. It could cost as much as $76.1 million when the project is complete.
The current schedule has Weeks Marine starting beachfill operations in Atlantic City using a “cutterhead” dredge in early to mid-April through late June, Rochette said. A “hopper” dredges will start in Longport during the same timeframe.
“Beachfill operations are expected to commence in Margate in late June and continue until late August,” Rochette said.
“That’s nothing I didn’t expect,” Margate Mayor Michael Becker said.
After Margate residents passed a referendum to fight the dunes project, the city filed a legal suit to stop it.
“We waged a good fight. We just didn’t win it,” Becker said.
On Feb. 3 a federal judge also ruled against Margate beachfront homeowners Steve Erlbaum, Frank Binswanger Jr., John Turchi, David Boath, Ron Cohen, and Kevin and Patricia Deroo in their lawsuit to stop the project.
Becker said the Army Corps indicated it would make the project as convenient as possible for Margate’s Fourth of July fireworks on the beach, which is sponsored by the Margate Mothers Association during the holiday weekend.
“We talked about the fireworks, and they said they would make it work,” Becker said.
There was no discussion about the Margate Business Association’s annual Beachstock celebration, which is slated for Saturday, June 24, Becker said.
The project is proceeding although an agreement has yet to be reached on the value of the easements needed to complete the project in Magate. The DEP estimated the value of 87 city-owned parcels at $29,600, but the city’s attorneys argued in court that the easements have a value “far in excess of $29,600.”
Becker said commissioners appointed by Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez, who decided in favor of the state and federal government, are scheduled to meet soon to determine the value.
Finally, beachfill will begin in early September at the south end of Ventnor, where a dunes-building project was initially completed in 2004 and re-nourished in 2012 just before Hurricane Sandy. A four-block section of Ventnor’s beach north of Richards Avenue damaged in a January nor’easter will also be repaired.
The contract calls for a 200-foot-wide beach, also known as a berm, and a dune built to an elevation of nearly 15 feet above sea level for Atlantic City. A 100-foot wide berm and a dune to an elevation of nearly 13 feet above sea level will be built for Ventnor, Margate and Longport.
The operation will completely close 1,000 feet of beach at a time before moving to the next section, and areas will be have to be set aside for storage of equipment. Because of the high cost of mobilizing a dredge to the site – as much as $100,000 per day – the beachfill operation will run continuously 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The dredges will be positioned 1½ miles out in the Atlantic.
The entire project should be completed by early October, but Rochette said the timeline is estimated, based on weather and mechanical issues with the dredging equipment.
Longport Mayor Nicolas Russo said he is impressed with the way the operation has been devised.
“This is new to us, but it is not new for the Army Corps,” Russo said. “This is very good for Longport because we should be done before our beach season kicks in by July 4 weekend.”
“Yes, it will be an inconvenience, but the long-term advantage is worth the inconvenience,” he said.
Russo said he would keep residents informed about what to expect and has already sent a letter to residents with the timeline for mobilizing equipment and beachfill operations.
Russo said the Army Corps and state DEP have coordinated operations so residents will have access to homes and emergency services.
Once the project begins, the Army Corps will be posting daily updates on its website.
The project is designed to reduce storm damage to homes and infrastructure from high waves, high tides and storm surges associated with coastal storms, and “help the communities continue to thrive as a destination for beach patrons, surfers, fishermen and wildlife enthusiasts,” according to a press release on the Army Corps’ website.
The initial construction of the dune and berm system in Margate and Longport is being fully funded by the federal government through the $1.2 billion 2013 Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, commonly known as the Sandy Relief Act approved by Congress and signed by then-President Barack Obama.
Sixty-five percent of the cost of periodic nourishment in Atlantic City and Ventnor portion of the contract is funded by the federal government, and 35 percent by the state and municipality.
The Absecon Island dune project is part Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to build one contiguous sand dune along the entire coastline of New Jersey.