Assessing Nor’easter Erosion, Some Areas Are Worse Than Others
The state Department of Environmental Protection is currently assessing the beach erosion that occurred during the area’s most recent nor’easter. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Philadelphia District is not planning on executing any further surveys of the storm, though the DEP will be reporting back to the organization upon the completion of its study, said Steve Rochette, Army Corps public affairs officer.
“It’s pretty standard for us or our sponsor to assess damages after a significant storm event,” Rochette explained. “They are looking at locations within the project area that experienced the most erosion. This is all part of the process we follow after a storm event. In some cases, we’ve been able to gain approval and funding to repair certain sections of the project.”
After walking the length of Beach Haven from 12th Street to Nelson Avenue a couple of times, Mayor Nancy Taggart Davis said most of the beach erosion appears to be at the south end of town. The erosion is worst at the areas between Belvoir and Iriquois avenues and from Stafford to Nelson avenues.
“Definitely there is quite a bit of erosion, with drop-offs of 15 feet in some places,” Taggart Davis stated, noting the DEP reached out to her the morning after the nor’easter “to see if there was anything that they could do to help us, which was very nice.”
She said the town has reached out to both the DEP and the Army Corps for help.
“I’m sure that everything will be perfect by the summer,” the mayor stated. “We do know that we still have quite a bit of winter left, and frequently what happens in this situation is sand will be washed back in, and then it will be washed out.”
She expects any necessary repairs, including at Essex Avenue, where the beach has been eroding more quickly since the summer, to be made after the main nor’easter season is over.
“But we’re on top of it, and I’m convinced that we won’t have an issue when spring comes and people want to get on the beach,” Taggart Davis said. “They’ll be able to get on the beach.”
Erosion in Surf City was minimal, according to borough Councilman Peter Hartney, who chairs the beach committee. The area with the most erosion, he noted, was at the street end at 25th Street, which is utilized as a drive-over that the borough shares with the neighboring North Beach section of Long Beach Township.
“I think that might be really the only significant damage,” Hartney said. “For the most part, the dunes held up well. The system worked.”
Although some dune fencing was knocked down in the area between 12th and 21st streets, Hartney said it “was nothing like in Jonas.”
“It held up good (this time); it looked nice,” he added. “It’s been fairly uneventful.”
Harvey Cedars Damage
Worse Than Expected
Harvey Cedars feels very fortunate that it was able to secure emergency beach restoration work last October from the Army Corps of Engineers. Otherwise, damage from last week’s nor’easter would have been considerably worse, according to Mayor Jonathan Oldham.
Oldham said the areas of 68th Street to 70th Street in the middle of town bore the brunt of the damage.
“The storm damage was worse than what we anticipated,” he said. “We were tracking the storm, listening to the weather forecasters. There were no abnormally high tides due to any full moon, so we thought there would not be much erosion.”
Oldham said the damage would not require any work from the Army Corps.
“When the wind blows some of the sand back to the beach, we’ll have our bulldozers out there pushing the sand to fix up the area,” he said. “The front of the dunes took a big hit, as we also have to fix up private walkovers and handicapped entrances.”
The mayor, who is public works chairman, said the erosion was much worse than from last year’s Winter Storm Jonas, as so named by The Weather Channel. After Jonas, the borough sought help from the Army Corps to have to work done at no cost.
“But that would have happened if FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) had declared it an emergency, but they did not do that, so we had to foot some of the bill,” he said.
The borough’s board of commissioners subsequently appropriated $631,000 in a capital improvements ordinance to authorize the work. Oldham said that because the dredges from the contractor, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, were still working on other beach projects on the Island at the time, the cost for mobilizing them was $200,000. Oldham said if the dredges had been out of the area, the cost would have been $4 million.
“We can only hope that nature takes its course and brings us more sand,” added Borough Clerk Daina Dale. “We had hoped that would have happened after Jonas, but it didn’t, so we needed help from the Army Corps.”
Long Beach Township
Gets to Work
With no outside funds on the way right now, Long Beach Township is working on beach repairs on its own after erosion carved cliffs into various sections of township beaches.
“Obviously, we got hit really bad with this last northeaster,” Mayor Joseph H. Mancini told The SandPaper Jan. 30. “As of right now, there are no plans from the Army Corps or the state or anybody else to come and help us with this last storm, because the state of New Jersey never really declared it a state of emergency or anything like that.
“So, what Long Beach Township is doing is pushing up the sand from the flat beach toward the dunes and trying to knock the cliffs down,” he said.
The township documented the storm’s damage with photos in case funding becomes available in the future.
“We have taken the pictures, we have submitted all the pictures to the state and to the Army Corps of Engineers, but this isn’t something that they are going to come back and fix right away,” Mancini said.
“At some point in time after we get another storm or two and we’re really short on sand, that’s when they create a new job, but right now the onus is on the municipalities.”
Heavy equipment will be biting back in Loveladies, North Beach and southern sections of the township that were all damaged, the mayor said. “The storm didn’t care what town it hit.”
Asked how the escarpments carved in the Jan. 23 northeaster compared to past northeast storms, Mancini said, “In some areas, if you look back on a typical nor’easter, you’ll have 6 to 10 feet, but in this one, some areas were close to 15 feet because the berms were a lot higher.
“But the good thing is the dunes held,” he added. “They were cut back, but they held, and they did what they were designed to do.”
Surf City, Harvey Cedars and a section of the Brant Beach of Long Beach Township will receive repairs previously approved by the Army Corps due to beach erosion and damage from other previous storms. Rochette noted that the Army Corps is still moving forward with preparing plans and specifications for the work.
Earlier this month, the Army Corps received notice that federal Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies appropriations are available to apply to several rehabilitation projects throughout the country, including a portion of the Long Beach Island project. While Surf City, Harvey Cedars and part of Brant Beach were deemed eligible for restoration following storms in October 2015 and January 2016, there were no adequate funds available through the program at the time.
— Kelley Anne Essinger, Eric Englund, Maria Scandale