Posted on January 30, 2023
Ocean County will be paying all $7.5 million of the local costs for the upcoming beach replenishment project that will repair beaches from Point Pleasant Beach to Berkeley Township, county officials announced Thursday.
The announcement brought a sigh of relief to officials in Toms River, Mantoloking and Bay Head in particular, the towns that had the largest share of the local cost of the project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Toms River officials had been urging Gov. Phil Murphy to cover the towns’ share of the costs for the beach replenishment since last summer, when the Army Corps plans were first announced.
The beach replenishment project is an expected follow-up to the beach and dune construction work that was done on the northern barrier island back in 2017-2018. The work aims to address areas that are “hot spots” for damage and maintain the beach construction that was done to help mitigate the effects of a hurricane.
The entire project, set to begin early in 2023, is estimated to cost $60 million, officials have said, with the federal government paying $30 million, and the state and towns affected paying the remaining $30 million.
The Ocean County Board of Commissioners in September said the county would pay half of the towns’ $7.5 million share of the project. Toms River’s share was $1.95 million, Bay Head is $1.4 million and Mantoloking was $1.29 million.
The towns are responsible for the operation of the beaches, which is why they are responsible for the costs of the beach replenishment work. They had been asking the state to pick up the costs because of the state’s strong budget position, and because the beach operations have been costly: Toms River has had a deficit in its beach operations the last three years, Hill said.
“We know our local municipalities have faced financial struggles as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Gary Quinn, deputy director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners. “And we also are well aware of the economic and environmental importance of our beaches.
“After reviewing the issue further, the board has agreed that rather than fund 50 percent of the local share for this project, it will fund 100 percent,” Quinn said.
Quinn, who co-chairs the county’s finance department with Commissioner John P. Kelly, noted Kelly had received requests from local mayors asking if the county could help.
“We are here to work with you,” Quinn told the mayors during a meeting at the county administration building. “We are here to help your towns. Our beaches are very important to us and we want to make sure we do all we can to get this project done.”
The Northern Barrier Island municipalities receiving the assistance are Berkeley Township, Seaside Park, Seaside Heights, Toms River Township, Lavallette, Brick Township, Mantoloking, Bay Head, and Point Pleasant Beach.
While Point Pleasant Borough has no oceanfront property and is not part of the replenishment effort, borough leaders have been supportive of the project in order to assist their neighboring communities.
“This takes a massive weight off of our shoulders,” Mantoloking Mayor E. Laurence “Lance” White said. “We deeply appreciate what you are doing.”
This project is the first major beach replenishment scheduled by the Army Corps of Engineers along the northern barrier island since it completed repairing and strengthening beaches in the years following Superstorm Sandy.
“The Ocean County Commissioners really stepped up for the taxpayers of Toms River and the barrier islands towns,” Hill said. “I thank all of the Commissioners, especially Deputy Director Gary Quinn and Commissioner Jack Kelly of the Finance Committee, as well as Director Joe Vicari, Commissioners Ginny Haines and Bobbi Jo Crea, for recognizing that our beaches and dunes benefit the entire county and the state. It is an undue burden for the taxpayers of the host communities to shoulder this cost.”
“This is very good news,” said John G. Ducey, mayor of Brick Township, which was facing a $900,000 price tag. “This helps our budget.”
Bay Head Mayor William Curtis also extended his appreciation to the Board of Commissioners and the Mayors for working together.
“This is good news for our borough and all the beaches along the northern barrier island,” he said.
Vicari noted all of the commissioners were in agreement to get this done.
“As liaison to tourism and business development, it’s important we all work together,” he said. “Tourism is a cornerstone of our economy. In addition, beach replenishment also protects the properties of our year-round residents and businesses.”
“Over the last several months the 9 barrier island mayors have worked together as a team to lobby both the county and the state to fund this project,” Hill said. “I would especially like to thank Mayor Bill Curtis of Bay Head and Mayor Lance White of Mantoloking for their hard work and partnership in making this happen. Bay Head, Mantoloking and Ortley Beach in Toms River have suffered the most erosion. Our residents would have been on the hook for the majority of the $7.5 million.”