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Avalon Council Updated on Beach Fill Project

Posted on November 17, 2016

Avalon Borough Council heard a report from Business Administrator Scott Wahl at its Nov. 9 meeting concerning the much-needed federal beach fill project. The delayed project appears to now be back on track as a result of an unusual agreement.

The project was put in danger when federal Fish and Wildlife Service officials invoked an old regulation that forbids federal money from being used to dredge sand from Herford Inlet, the borrow source for the Stone Harbor portion of the Seven Mile Island project. This unprecedented action placed the Avalon beach fill in jeopardy as well since the two municipalities were part of a single contract and bidding process. Avalon gets its sand from Townsend Inlet but the two boroughs share the same contractor and same mobilization effort.

For several weeks now the boroughs have been challenging the Fish and Wildlife decision. Avalon has even sought injunctive relief in the courts. The regulation invoked to prevent sand dredging in Hereford Inlet has been on the books for decades, but has never before been used to stop a federal beach fill in Stone Harbor. While seeking a long-term solution to ensure that future projects will not be delayed, Avalon and Stone Harbor have managed a short-term agreement which they hope gets this year’s project moving by January.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has agreed to fund part of the cost of the Hereford Inlet dredging, with Stone Harbor making a contribution to it as well. As long as federal dollars are not used, the dredging can proceed. The federal funds that planned for the Stone Harbor portion of the project will be moved to Avalon’s fill. The shift allows Avalon to benefit since it increases the amount of sand for Avalon’s beaches from a planned 145,000 cubic yards to 490,000. The borough, with some areas in desperate need of sand, may even elect to pay for more sand beyond that amount since they can take advantage of a significant price break possible because the contractor’s mobilization is already covered. The 145,000 minimum in the original plan was never considered sufficient to the borough’s needs given the state of the beaches after recent storms.

A memorandum of understanding with the state and the Army Corps of Engineers is being developed to document the agreement for this year’s project. The contractor has agreed to hold the bid in place until Dec. 15 to allow for the agreement to be finalized. The same contractor will be working on a federal beach fill project in Cape May and will move to Seven Mile Island at that project’s conclusion.

Meanwhile, Avalon will continue to pursue a long-term solution to the problem claiming that Fish and Wildlife was invoking a rule that should not apply to future projects just as it has not applied to past replenishments. For this year, the chaos resulting from what Wahl called the “capricious” invoking of an old regulation has actually worked to the borough’s benefit, increasing the amount of federally-funded sand for borough beaches.

Source: Cape May County

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