CAPE MAY – Former mayor Jerry Inderwies was denied his request to be part of a meeting the city will have with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding the ongoing beach replenishment project.
The city has a 50-year contract with the Army Corps to review and periodically replenish Cape May beaches. Over the years, the level of the beach has been raised to the point where it has created a “beach break,” or steep slope at the water’s edge. Bathers or surfers are sometimes injured when strong waves knock them into the beach break.
Inderwies raised the issue at the Aug. 18 Cape May City Council meeting because a 17-year-old Baltimore youth was injured on Aug. 5, when waves knocked him into the beach break, fracturing two cervical vertebrae. Inderwies said he would like to be part of the meeting to help address the beach break and related injuries.
“I was involved in the beaches for 20 years, and I would like to be involved in the meeting,” Inderwies said.
City manager Bruce MacLeod acknowledged the city had a meeting planned on a project through the Army Corps but said it was not scheduled to address the beach break.
“I will bring up the unfortunate incident at the meeting, but (the meeting) is not for that purpose,” MacLeod said.
Inderwies said there have been 15 injuries this year because of the beach break, and he believes people do not understand how serious it is. Mayor Ed Mahaney told Inderwies the city had a commitment from the Army Corps on beach replenishment after Hurricane Sandy, and a meeting was scheduled for the city and representatives from City Council, and it would not be a public meeting.
“There is a lot of money riding on this,” Mahaney said.
“So I won’t be included, right?” Inderwies asked.
“Correct,” Mahaney said.
Anita deSatnick, the mother of Chad deSatnick, who received a spinal cord injury in 2001 while surfing, said her son appeared many times before City Council asking members to make the beach safe. Her son pushed for beach safety brochures to be distributed to beachgoers, which the city did, she said. She said her son also explained a procedure used by the Army Corps in many other parts of country, where measures are being taken to make the beach safer. The city has not taken any action to see if the Army Corps would help reduce the beach break, deSatnick said, and she suggested Mahaney did not think there was a serious problem.
“Mr. Mayor, at one meeting you said, ‘But, Chad, how many of those spinal cord injuries were serious?’ Every single one is serious,” deSatick said. “A young man suffered this (kind of) injury last week. I hope he recovers. Please address it.”
Mahaney said he did not mean to diminish the seriousness of anyone’s injury, and said the beach patrol takes a lot of precautions when there is a suspected neck injury. But he added that the city needs the cooperation of the medical community to know what they are dealing with. The city, the beach patrol, and the EMS service rarely receives feedback as to the extent of a surf-related neck injury, he said.
Dennis deSatnick, the father of Chad, said his son became frustrated with the city because they were not doing enough to prevent C-spine injuries. In Avalon, a bulldozer was used to push sand laterally to adjust the slope of the beach, he said.
“We were told we can’t do that,” deSatnick said.
He said his son was in touch with the project manager and verified that they were moving sand on the beach in Avalon.
“My point is, mayor, that we need some experts besides yourself making decisions on beach programs. And I wonder how many members of council understand the problem, or have been in the water, or have been knocked over,” deSatnick said. “Two weeks ago I relived my son’s injury. I hope and pray this young man does recover. I won’t rest until we improve the situation on the beach.”
Dennis deSatnick said storms during the hurricane season could erode the beaches further, worsening the beach break. He asked why emergency management people were not invited to a hurricane conference held in the spring. Mahaney said the purpose of the meeting was planning for shore protection, not an exercise of storm response.
Resident Tricia Gray-Hendricks said rather than “tag on to a meeting already arranged” the city should schedule a public meeting with the Army Corps to discuss beach injuries.
“It deserves a little more than a tag on,” she said.
Mahaney said other towns with less experience in beach replenishment are now starting to experience such problems. He said strength in numbers might force the Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps to do something.
Inderwies asked to respond to the topic of emergency management, and said there is none in Cape May. He said the director of emergency management has retired, and there have been no ongoing emergency management meetings in Cape May.