Replenishment: A Deal With the Devil
As with most LBI business owners and locals, I look forward to things slowing down a bit here and the kids going back to school. September provides a much-needed break from working every day for almost four months. And it’s the best time of the year. September is everything here on LBI, especially with the Atlantic usually sending great waves and temperatures that hover around being perfect!
There is a rich surfing history on Long Beach Island, known to have some of the best sandbars and waves on the Jersey Shore. It is a bond that connects families here and generations of surfers. There is no better time to enjoy LBI than the fall. As the local surfing community will tell you, we wait all year for these next few months.
When I woke up last week and saw two sand dredges on the beach here in Beach Haven Gardens, my spirit was crushed. After almost two years of no sandbars and dangerous shore pound, we saw sandbars form that produced rideable waves and a natural beach contour take shape. But that was all gone in a matter of days, leaving this stretch of beach buried again. This was a beach that was larger than it had ever been in recent history and what I estimated to be 120 yards wide at the time they started to pump.
So widening the beach during the last week of summer and into Labor Day weekend sounds like the idea of a genius!? The beaches here are our most precious natural resource to the inhabitants and business owners of this Island. They are the main reason people choose to live and visit this barrier island. To see the once-beautiful beaches of LBI become modified as some over-engineered safety net is disheartening. The Army Corps of Engineers is using the same practice here as it would for a levee system on the Mississippi River. And it looks ridiculous now.
First off, I want to tell you that I was in favor of dune restoration. After seeing firsthand the power of nature after Sandy, I felt strongly that bigger dunes were needed. But there is a problem now, as the Army Corps and Great Lakes Dredging Co. are abusing the power they hold over our beaches. They make their own rules. I would almost say it was making a deal with the devil.
The reality is you don’t have to be an engineer to understand the dynamic of LBI as a barrier island. Surfers and fishermen have probably the best local knowledge. There is a cycle to sand erosion. The beaches are the smallest in the early spring after big winter storms and largest by the end of summer due to the mellow ocean conditions of summer. Pumping sand now to extend beaches that are currently bigger than they have ever been in the history of LBI is just plain ridiculous.
This does absolutely nothing to protect this Island anymore. It is a complete waste of taxpayers’ money, and someone is cashing that check. It is a lesson in futility. The beaches are now more dangerous (if not closed) where the pumping is taking place. I have heard of several spinal injuries to swimmers over just the last week.
Another factor I’m not sure they understand is that by extending a flat beach farther, you only will aid in quicker erosion. You eliminate sandbars, which help to dissipate offshore wave action, and in the case of storm surge when the beach would be underwater (Sandy, Juno), you actually increase the speed of dune erosion by creating a stronger near-shore current. That ends up focusing most of the ocean’s power on the dune system.
I am not sure who is responsible for the latest round of “beach extension,” but someone needs to be held accountable and explain why taxes are being wasted and beaches closed this time of the year. This is government inefficiency at its finest.
The ironic thing is that even with the tens of millions of dollars spent on pumping sand, we are still just as susceptible to a flood from the bay, which was 90 percent of the damage caused by Sandy. Nothing to date has been done to try to mitigate bay flooding. These dunes and beaches really just provide a false sense of security. If you decide to build on this Island, you better make sure you have a strong foundation to withstand surge. It’s just how it is.
Not seeing fathers able to share waves with their sons, or uncles push their nephews into waves, this summer in Beach Haven and other municipalities affected by unnecessary beach extension this summer is a huge loss to the people who care about this Island the most. The beaches should not be transformed into a barrier between the sea and land. The ocean will always win. Maintain the dunes, but there is no need for what is currently taking place.
I hear Ship Bottom is next! I would like to see anyone in charge go stand on that huge beach and say that it is beneficial to extend it farther.
Good luck to our fine beach patrols in trying to patrol these dangerous beaches and shore pound during the coming round of long-period swell.
Brian Farias lives in Beach Haven Gardens and is an owner of Farias’ Surf & Sport shops.