Boulevard Crown Raising Eases Flooding in Ship Bottom

Jul 11, 2018

The pop-up thunderstorm that dumped much-needed rain on Long Beach Island July 6 also highlighted the success of a plan to allay flooding along a stretch of the main thoroughfare in one of the most flood-prone areas in Ship Bottom.

“It was low tide, but from everything I saw, everything was working,” Ship Bottom Mayor William Huelsenbeck said, adding he watched a video of the water being sucked down into a pipe.

In May, the Ocean County Roads Department, using a plan put together by the county engineering department, raised the crown of Long Beach Boulevard from 24th Street in Ship Bottom to 33rd Street in neighboring Long Beach Township. Depending on the area of the roadway, the crown was raised between 6 and 8 inches in an effort to alleviate flooding in the center turn lane, allowing one lane of water-free, or almost water-free, driving during a tidal or storm flood. There had been no significant rainfall since the work was completed before Memorial Day weekend.

The crown raising was the first step in mitigating flood waters in one of the oldest and most flood-prone areas of the borough, where the roadway floods even on the sunniest of days. Resident Richard Cummins, who has extensive experience in the type of work performed, questioned the decision to raise the crown of the road before other flood relief solutions were put into play. After the work was completed, he told borough officials he wasn’t opposed to it, just the timing of it.

But Ocean County Engineer John Ernst said the crown raising had to be addressed first.

“Otherwise, the pump would consistently work,” he said recently, adding, “There would be no place for the pump to pump. We don’t want to recirculate the water.”

The flooding is caused by water that comes in more quickly than it recedes, whether it’s storm related or sunny-day flooding. Ship Bottom officials addressed the issue by installing tie valves, which allow the water to flow in only one direction. The valves are maintained annually and inspected every six months to ensure they work properly. Still, water can become trapped in the pipes for a period of time and then pushed out.

In Long Beach Township and Beach Haven, motorists are often redirected to the higher ocean roads when the Boulevard is impassable due to flood waters in those communities. A contiguous, alternate ocean road doesn’t exist in Ship Bottom, Ernst has said, acknowledging that all the traffic converges at the worst area for flooding in the borough.

The raising of the crown didn’t change the gutter lines, so the flood waters aren’t being dumped on private or commercial property. What it does, according to Ernst, is allow the water that collects to the east side of the Boulevard to continue to drain through that system. The water that collects to the west will remain doing so, he said. Eventually, a pump station could help relieve the west section of the Boulevard of water that lingers after a storm.

“We didn’t have any damage from the rain or flooding,” Surf City Police Chief Jack Casella said, noting motorists who create a wake when traveling through flood waters are cited for careless driving in the borough.

There’s been no public discussion about other municipalities adopting a no-wake driving ordinance, although Long Beach Township Mayor Joseph Mancini instructed local law enforcement there to step up enforcement on motorists speeding through flood waters after the March nor’easters.

“You are responsible for your own wake. ... And have some compassion for those who own homes and businesses on the side of the road,” who would prefer not to have waves of water sent toward and into their structures by vehicles moving fast through flooded areas, he said at the time.

It’s generally believed Ship Bottom’s ordinance is the first of its kind to address no-wake driving on land.

“The purpose is to protect the property of the borough and its citizens by regulating the manner of operation of motor vehicles driven upon the public streets and roadways of the borough during flood conditions,” according to Ship Bottom Ordinance 2018-05.

Under the measure, motorists are strictly forbidden from operating a motor vehicle within the gateway community in a way that casts or discharges a wave traveling beyond the edge of the street or curb line.

Driving fast through flood waters only increases the likelihood of a vehicle sucking water up into the engine. Water in the engine can destroy the car. It’s a situation borough police saw a lot during the March nor’easters, creating just the right conditions for cars to be washed out and drivers needing to be rescued by local police.

— Gina G. Scala

ggscala@thesandpaper.net

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