Posted on September 29, 2016
By Jean Mikle
Beach replenishment is coming to northern Ocean County, at long last.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to advertise for bids later this month for the massive dune-building project from Manasquan to Barnegat inlets, according to Steve Rochette, a spokesman for the corps’ Philadelphia district.
Rochette said the corps has been working on many of the pre-contract preparations. Once the project is advertised, it will be awarded within 30 days, Rochette said.
That means the actual work could begin by sometime in the late winter, Rochette said.
“It will depend on where the contractor has dredging equipment and when it can be put in place,” he said.
The state announced in late June that it had secured enough easements – the legal documents necessary to gain access to the beach through private property – to move forward with the beach replenishment project. The project is expected to initially include Mantoloking, Brick, Lavallette, Toms River, Seaside Heights and Seaside Park.
The state is still in litigation with oceanfront property owners in Bay Head and Point Pleasant Beach. Easements are also still missing in the South Seaside Park section of Berkeley Township, although Berkeley Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr. said the township is working hard to obtain the documents through eminent domain, if necessary.
The Army Corps has said the project will take more than a year to complete. Initial construction costs are estimated at $167 million.
The corps will also maintain the beaches for 50 years after replenishment. The total cost of the project over that time is expected to be about $514 million.
The state first attempted to seize beachfront property by using the Disaster Control Act, which New Jersey officials believed would be faster than the traditional eminent domain process.
But last year, Ocean County Superior Court Judge Vincent J. Grasso ruled against Long Beach Township in an easement case in which the township used the Disaster Control Act to take an easement located on oceanfront property in Loveladies owned by the Minke Family Trust.
Judge Grasso ruled that the township could not use the act to avoid condemnation actions. Instead, towns must pursue easements from homeowners who are unwilling to give them voluntary by using eminent domain – a process that could take much longer.
The state then began filing eminent domain actions against recalcitrant property owners in northern Ocean County. Several of those actions were also challenged in court, with some homeowners contending that the state was attempting to turn their beachfront land into public property.
In March, Superior Court Assignment Judge Marlene Lynch Ford ruled against 28 oceanfront property owners who had asked the judge to block the state Department of Environmental Protection’s attempts to acquire a portion of their land to build bigger beaches.
The ruling helped pave the way for the beach replenishment project.