Liquid Lines

Clean Water and Air Are Overrated, 13-Day Swell, Hurricane Michael and Steel to the Groin

By JON COEN | Oct 10, 2018
Photo by: NOAA Hurricane Michael will be trouble for the Gulf, but will kick up some surf for us.

Not a bad weekend on this sandbar. And it seems we’re getting a little more September to make up for the one we missed. There were an awful lot of people about. This not only gave businesses a nice shoulder season weekend and brought back some friends we haven’t seen since summer, but it gave us something to do on Monday morning, arguing on Facebook whether the towns should leave the lights on one more weekend later next year.

I know it’s hard to believe, but we all used to agree on certain things in America. In general, freedom and democracy were good. We weren’t perfect, but we were always working on it. And we believed that we should generally have things like clean air to breathe and a healthy, unpolluted ocean. And when there were challenges to be faced, we generally agreed on the assessment. We may have argued over the best course to solve the issue, but we all at least recognized that there was a problem. Dare I say, sometimes we even acted conservatively to keep our problems from becoming larger.

Seems like another lifetime ago, doesn’t it? Sure history simplifies things, but we did have more common ideas because we were mostly getting the same story. Now we’re all getting different stories.

It’s been a while since I’ve taken Liquid Lines into the deep chasm that is modern American politics. It’s safe to say, most of us are exhausted with it.

But while we’re mostly focused on the partisan vitriol and the continued status quo for entitled drunken frat boys (guilty or innocent), our fearless leader has continued sticking his spite sabre into the belly of the very laws and philosophies that protect us from drowning in our own toxic tides.

If there’s one thing you can say about Fearless 45, he’s living up to his campaign promises. In 2015 he famously said, “We’ll be fine with the environment. We can leave a little bit ….”

I was only surprised to hear him say we’d leave a little bit. Why not just slay the last red wolf to make scarves for chilly days on the golf course? What do we need all these trees for?

In short, since taking office, he has made your future vehicles less fuel efficient, he pulled us out of a global climate treaty, he gave public lands to private industry, he scrapped our ocean policy, and brought the excitement of danger back to endangered species.

He cut funding on NASA’s climate research, crossed the Climate Change strategy from FEMA’s to-do list and removed climate change info from government websites. Because it’s best to get that pesky information out of the way when you’re making big plans.

We were a country making the smallest baby steps toward renewable energy. Not only has he attempted to open all of our coastlines to drilling for oil, but he put tariffs on solar panels to make sure renewables don’t threaten the fossil fuel industry that makes considerable donations to his campaigns.

We have a president who is literally pro-methane and pro-asbestos.

This is just a list of his greatest hits. Last week, it was coal. Trump’s handpicked EPA acting administrator, a former fossil fuel industry lobbyist, helped him roll back regulations on what coal plants have to do with coal ash. They also decided to lower the safety standards for certain amounts of fun things in our water like lead, cobalt and lithium. I know someone will argue that these rules were overreaching and the allowable practices won’t threaten drinking water. But we have actual drinking water catastrophes in this country right now. You’d think we’d be doing everything we could to err on the side of caution.

I just don’t see how it’s “conservative” to make bigger problems that will cost more money to fix in the future.

Hey, the national economy is great. Is that your only metric of success? How good was the economy in the Gulf after the Deepwater Horizon disaster? How good is the economy on the coasts of Florida where the red tides have killed all the fish? How good is the economy in the Carolinas as pollution cocktails flow out of swollen rivers into coastal waterways after Hurricane Florence?

Yes, at one point, everyone in America would have agreed that we should do whatever it takes to protect our drinking water and not kill massive amounts of sea life. We’re now passed that point.

PEAKS AND VALLEYS, AND PEAKS: You ever feel like you’re on a surf trip in your own town? For every way that September disappointed us, October is making up for it – except for wind, but hey, you can’t have everything.

Sometimes I wonder if Liquid Lines gets too whiny about the waves and weather conditions, but the last few weeks I’ve heard everyone echoing my sentiment that September was straight out of a seasonal nightmare with maybe three days that had offshore winds (and two of those were the last two days of the month).

October has been better. And we may have broken some kind of record as we are on the very tail end of a 13-day swell from Hurricane Leslie, which was first classified as a subtropical storm way back on Sept. 23. The swell first showed up on Sept. 28.

Leslie was amazing in her track, just sitting for so many days off our coast. Of course, we all would have liked to see her zip right offshore, building massive surf and giving us a session of hard northwest winds, but 13 days isn’t bad either.

An awful lot of those two weeks of swell were onshore or the period was too long, but everything came together a week ago Wednesday. We were getting swell from when Leslie had been a little closer to us, hence the swell period dropped. And the wind was that perfect west/northwest.

By afternoon, the south end was doing its thing and some of the mid-Island spots that had recently been replenished were breaking right off the beach. For the first time this season, we had legitimate hurricane swell bowling up to head high with offshore winds and warm water. I’m not the only one who was very grateful to not have to kick and bite to get into some soft long-period swell line, but rather take two strokes and get thrown into a steep face over shallow sandbar. Being a Wednesday, it was mostly empty. There were a few runners, turn sections and even the odd barrel to be had. We get barreled so infrequently in trunks or a light wetsuit that we tend to remember it like a holiday.

Winds were an issue again this weekend.

Unfortunately, the winds have mostly continued their craptastic display for the weekend, plenty of wind for kites, just going completely the wrong way for surfing. The wind was northeast on Saturday and anything but ideal. However, as long as it wasn’t the highest of tides you could maybe find a corner. The wind was light but south on Sunday. Even the forecasted morning southwest wind was actually south, which is probably the worst of all our onshore winds here. There was a short period of light winds and continued swell on Monday morning, but the tide was absolutely swallowing it whole. The rest of the early week was smaller with pretty forgettable conditions.

Things look interesting for the end of the week. Every year by October, we start looking for the windswells to start again after all the groundswells. We may have a decent windswell on the way. Look for winds to start blowing on Wednesday and increase on Thursday with the passing of a cold front (side note: we have our coolest weather of the season coming this weekend). The storm, winds and swell could all be enhanced by Hurricane Michael, which came fast and furious out of the Caribbean this week and is headed for the Panhandle.

Michael should wail into Florida today. If all that energy gets picked up, we could see a pretty formidable wave. And unlike all the hurricane groundswell of late, it should pull right to our northeast, leaving us with northwest wind behind it. How good does that sound?

It’s worth mentioning that Michael rapidly intensified and may be a Cat 3 when it makes landfall. There will certainly be some damage. And when he goes inland, he might be soaking the Carolinas, which don’t really need it.

IRON GROIN: For the last year or so I’ve been trying to keep surfers and the Island community abreast of what’s happening down at the end of LBI. This is one of the hottest spots for erosion on the whole Island and each attempt to bolster the beaches and dunes of Holgate has washed into Little Egg Inlet faster than pretty much anywhere else on our little sandbar. Hence, Long Beach Township is seeking to build a huge new terminal groin where the Wooden Jetty currently is.

The Wooden Jetty is a prime surf spot on LBI. That littoral drift that causes the erosion also creates one of the most unique breaks on the Island. This new jetty would certainly alter that wave and several other surf spots in Holgate.

So it’s understandable that Long Beach Township wants to protect that neighborhood in Holgate. It’s also understandable that surfers would worry about losing one of the best waves (and last few good jetties) on LBI. There’s been a lot of talk back and forth and both Mayor Mancini and the Holgate Taxpayers Association wanted to move forward as quickly as possible.

But the permits have yet to be passed and U.S. Fish and Wildlife wants to see more data. And now, fearing the worst of winter storms to come, Long Beach Township is applying for permits to a “quick fix” on the current Wooden Jetty by rebuilding it with steel. Mayor Mancini is correct that the old bulkhead is rotted out.

It’s hard to say what’s going to happen in the long run with the terminal groin proposal, but I would say that repairs to the current jetty would probably not destroy the breaks there. U.S. Fish and Wildlife still has to sign off on that as well. There’s a possibility it could fill in some sand to the north of the Wooden. It’s impossible to say, but I don’t see a good reason that surfers should be particularly concerned. The wave could actually get better. And if it helps to stabilize the beaches in front of those homes, that’s great.

The township is still pushing ahead with permitting for the 600-foot-long new groin, but the whole thing is up in the air right now.

HAPS, PAST AND PRESENT: I used the reference to the busy weekend to lead into a joke at the start of the column, but it was fantastic to see so many folks return to the Island this weekend. Not only was the Fly LBI International Kite Fest another soaring success, but the Oyster Shellebration gave another reason for folks to visit. The 18 Mile Run had the wind at runners’ backs and the new owners at Fantasy Island kept the park open on weekends since Labor Day, ending the season with a huge fireworks display out over the bay on Saturday night. And all the other South End shops and restaurants helped promote it, making for a legit busy night in Beach Haven.

Yes, the weather certainly helps, but these are good examples that if businesses engage and keep the lights on into the offseason, people will keep coming down.

We’re now almost into the fourth week of Jetty Clam Jam season. I think a few folks were wondering why Jetty didn’t hold the Jam last Sunday with decent weather and forecasted southwest winds. Well, southwest winds are sideshore here and any forecast for such winds on a warm day is usually actually for south or southeast. The surf here was garbage and that mid-day low tide would have been awful. Good call to postpone.

I think we have to see what happens with the storm this week. A potential stall of that front could mean Saturday is a possibility. If that doesn’t happen, I don’t see any reason to think it would be this weekend.

It seems that the bigger festivals and surf-related events have mostly slowed down. There’s no lack of things to do, it’s just that the focus will move from the beach and bay to the pumpkin farms and parks. We’re now deep enough into October to relish in the cider and hayrides.

joncoen@thesandpaper.net

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