Army Corps proposes multimillion-dollar dune project for Wildwoods

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Photo by Jen Marra/ Some of North Wildwood’s beaches are eroding, while beaches in the rest of the Wildwoods continue to grow. Photo by Jen Marra/ Some of North Wildwood’s beaches are eroding, while beaches in the rest of the Wildwoods continue to grow. WILDWOOD—The Army Corps of Engineers wants to complete a $21.8 million dune project on the Wildwoods’ beaches in an effort to reduce future storm damage on the island.

Officials in North Wildwood welcome the project, while Wildwood is skeptical, and in Wildwood Crest, officials say they want to take a closer look.

In a feasibility study released Dec. 20, the Corps details an expansive dune project that would extend from North Wildwood to the Diamond Beach section of Lower Township. The project involves back passing sand from Wildwood and the Crest to build a dune and berm in North Wildwood, and a dune only in Wildwood, Wildwood Crest and Lower Township.  

As proposed in the study, the 16-foot dune would extend from Second Avenue and John F. Kennedy Boulevard in North Wildwood to the southern border of Lower Township at Raleigh Avenue. In North Wildwood, the berm is planned to be 75-feet wide, according to the study.

The 341-page Army Corps study is 10 years in the making, and is now in a public comment period. In it, the Corps states that its proposal will address two issues in the Wildwoods: beach erosion in the northern end and outfall pipe clogging in the southern end, which officials say is a result of a rapidly growing beach.

The project is expected to save $3.3 million net annually, according to the study. The state of New Jersey and local communities could see a savings of $949,000 each year, the study projected.

“I think it’s an important step for shore protection for the entire island,” North Wildwood Mayor-Elect Patrick Rosenello said Monday. “I certainly think it’s prudent for us to work cooperatively with the Army Corps and DEP.”

In his community, the Corps also calls for beach nourishment projects to occur every four years, after the initial project is constructed. Over 50 years, those nourishments are expected to cost $58.7 million, bringing the total cost of the Army Corps project to $80.6 million.

According to the study, $1.1 million is slated for easements, relocations, and the disposal of dredging material. Those funds will be credited toward the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s cash contribution to the project. The DEP is the non-federal sponsor of the project.

Rosenello added that North Wildwood had worked with the Army Corps previously, when its sea wall was reconstructed in 2005. He compared the sea wall project to the newly proposed dune one.

“Having lived through the threat of Irene and reality of Sandy, I certainly look back and am thankful the Army Corps did our sea wall project,” Rosenello said. “Had that Army Corps project not been in place, I think the northern end of this island would have been destroyed prior to Sandy.”

While beaches in Wildwood and Wildwood Crest continue to grow, beaches near Hereford Inlet in North Wildwood lose sand and erode, particularly as a result of recent storms. After Hurricane Sandy, North Wildwood’s north-end beaches lost 150,000 cubic yards of sand, and a $3 million replenishment project was completed this year.

A sand back passing project was completed in North Wildwood in 2012, when 96,000 cubic yards of sand was trucked from Wildwood Crest to North Wildwood to refill north-end beaches.

But in Wildwood, that city faces a much different problem. From 1986 to 2003, the Corps says Wildwood’s beaches have been growing at a rate of 24 feet annually. In the long-term, the beach there has been gaining sand at a rate of about 18 feet annually from 1899 to 2003.

The Corps says most of this sand came from North Wildwood, and that the accretion is causing Wildwood and Wildwood Crest to have to repeatedly extend outfall lines. In Wildwood, those lines frequently clog with sand, which brings flooding to Pacific, Atlantic and Ocean Avenue during heavy rains.

But Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano thinks the sand accretion isn’t causing that problem, but rather that a new outfall system is needed.

“Give me the money to fix my outfall pipes and leave me alone,” he said Monday. He added that he wanted to meet with officials from the Army Corps to discuss the project further.

In Wildwood, officials had wanted to use the expansive beach to host events and festivals, like the Kenny Chesney concert that hosted more than 25,000 in the summer of 2012.

But, Troiano believes this Army Corps project will make it impossible to host crowds like that in the future because the project involves scaling Wildwood’s beach back.

According to the Army Corps, 1.3 million cubic yards of sand will be used initially to build the dune and berm. Then, 305,000 cubic yards of sand is planned to be used every four years for renourishment.

 “We complain about our beach being so big, but it’s a good thing,” he said. “That big beach allows us to have a lot of events and other activities.”

Troiano added that he was “not particularly in favor” of the project.

“I’d like the opportunity to sit down with them and talk to them about what they want to do to our beach,” he said.

Beaches in Wildwood Crest have grown even more than their neighbor. Since 1998, the shoreline in the borough has accreted at an average rate of about 26 feet per year.

Crest Mayor Carl Groon says he has assigned a committee to go over the report, then submit a response to the Corps by the end of the month. The committee consists of their engineer and coastal engineer, as well as the head of public works, and Commissioner Don Cabrera, who oversees public works in the borough.

“Hopefully we’ll have an idea at our late January meeting to identify exposures and issues,” he said.

Like Wildwood, the Crest has had to extend its outfall lines numerous times to keep up with the growing beach. Unlike officials in that city, though, Groon said he doesn’t want to see the Crest beaches continue to expand.

“We certainly don’t want to see our beach grow bigger,” he said.

The project is in a public comment period until Feb. 6. Residents can submit comments in writing on the subject to Environmental Resources Branch, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Wanamaker Building, 100 Penn Square East, Philadelphia, 19107.

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