Township declares emergency for Strathmere’s north end

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(photo by Jen Marra) Township and state park beaches were severely eroded by strong waves and high tides as Hurricane Arthur passed during the Fourth of July weekend. (photo by Jen Marra) Township and state park beaches were severely eroded by strong waves and high tides as Hurricane Arthur passed during the Fourth of July weekend.

STRATHMERE – Township committee Monday approved an emergency declaration for Strathmere’s north end after strong waves and tides from Hurricane Arthur swept 100 feet of sand from beaches there in a matter of days.

Dr. Stewart Farrell of the Coastal Research Center at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, who conducts regular surveys of Strathmere beaches for the township, said old timber structures became visible jutting from the sand in November. By March of this year, the beach had retreated 20 feet, he said. Between March and April, the beach lost another 10 to 15 feet.

 

“Arthur took 100 feet all by itself,” Farrell said.

The township has declared an emergency so that it can act quickly in case of another storm. Homes line the beach on the northern tip of Strathmere and street ends at Neptune and Commonwealth drives could be flooded in a storm.

If waves breach a rock wall and steel bulkhead there, water could come rushing south, Mayor Richard Palombo said. Homes could be flooded and roadways would be undermined.

“August is coming,” Farrell said. “If we have five northeasters or hurricanes, possibly we’re in trouble.”

At high tide, waves crash against a rock wall that the township installed in a similar situation in 2008 at a cost of $600,000. Farrell said this is the third time since 1999 that the inlet has moved south and cut away Strathmere’s north end beaches.

A steel bulkhead also protects the home on the far northeast corner of Strathmere. The rock wall extends south and west, but does not protect the street end at Commonwealth Drive.

A major beach replenishment project is planned for November, officials said. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to go out to bid in August and award a contract in October. Sand could begin pumping onto Strathmere’s beaches as soon as Nov. 1, Farrell said.

“(Army Corps) said if it looks ugly they will pump Strathmere first,” he said.

But hoping for the best as the East Coast just enters hurricane season isn’t prudent, Palombo said. With an emergency declaration, the township will be able to make a phone call and have sand trucked in quickly, he said.

The township plans to agree to a contract with Albrecht & Heun, Inc. for delivery of sand in an emergency, according to officials. Farrell said the company could deliver around 100 feet of sand in a day.

That amount of sand could also be washed away in a single high tide, he said. Geotubes filled with sand could last longer, but cost more and are not meant to be a permanent solution, Farrell said.

Palombo said he was leaning toward the use of geotubes to protect street ends because they would hold up better against strong waves. He said when the township trucked in sand to the same area in 2008, “it took all of one northeaster to get rid” of it.

The township has $300,000 left over from a 2008 bond for beach replenishment. There is $1 million left in a 2011 beach replenishment bond.

In 2009, beaches received almost 900,000 cubic yards of sand – the largest beach replenishment project in the community’s history. In 2012, around 400,000 cubic yards were pumped onto beaches and the state park here.

Palombo said he would like to use the bond money to pay for sand in case roadways or other public property is damaged and the township has to fund repairs. The bonds can only be used for beach replenishment, officials said.

The emergency declaration will allow the township to move quickly in entering a contract for sand. Otherwise, the township would have to go out to bid, said solicitor Dan Young.

Engineer Paul Dietrich said he is preparing a package for the state so that the Bureau of Coastal Engineering could protect the state park area in Strathmere.

“Is the DEP going to step up to the plate?” Palombo asked.

Farrell said that in a phone conversation with the Bureau of Coastal Engineering Monday, state officials said they would work to shore up their part of the beach if they had the money.

Farrell, Dietrich and Young also spoke on a conference call with U.S. Army Corps officials Monday. Farrell said he raised the idea of moving the borrow site to the north of Corson’s Inlet, so the inlet would move away from Strathmere. The borrow site for the federal project is now located two miles off shore, he said.

Moving the plan’s borrow site now would mean delaying the project by six months to a year, Farrell said he was told.

“That puts us through two more winter seasons,” he said.

The federal project will pump around 5 million cubic yards of sand onto southern Ocean City, Strathmere and Sea Isle City. Strathmere will receive around 1.2 million cubic yards of sand, Farrell said.

That amount of sand should make the inlet “definable for quite some time,” he said.

The replenishment interval for southern Ocean City is every three years, Farrell said. Replenishment for Strathmere will be done every five years, he said.

However, the Corson’s Inlet borrow site will be used for future projects.

“That should keep (the inlet) away from the Strathmere side,” Farrell said.

The U.S. Army Corps project including Ocean City’s southend beaches, along with Strathmere and Sea Isle City, is estimated to cost $68 million. The federal government is paying for the entire project.

Palombo said he hopes the township’s proactive measures are not necessary before the beach replenishment begins.

“You go out and buy a snow blower, it doesn’t snow for five years,” he said. “That’s what I’m hoping for.”


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