Concerns Cloud Storm Risk Study

Jul 04, 2018

To the Editor:

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is cosponsoring a three-year, $3 million New Jersey Back Bays Coastal Storm Risk Management Study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The purpose of the study is, in part, to assess the feasibility of implementing system-wide storm risk management solutions such as storm surge barriers at selected inlet entrances, or tidal gates at selected lagoon entrances, and if systems-wide release solutions are not feasible, to assess the feasibility of implementing site-specific solutions such as combination of structural, non-structural, and natural and nature-based features.

This study has significant implications for Long Beach Island, yet there has been a lack of transparency and communication from the responsible federal and state agencies with LBI homeowners.

For example, at the May 7 LBI Joint Council of Taxpayers Association meeting, not one member of the local taxpayer chapters was aware of the study.

The Corps held a public hearing at Stockton University on Dec. 1, 2016 despite a public hearing notice being published on Nov. 22, a mere nine days before the hearing. Both the notice and the hearing itself were scheduled in November and December, a time when the vast majority of homeowners have already vacated LBI for the winter.

It is unclear if the loss of coastal storm surge protection from the eroding bay islands, the conditions of back bay bulkheads protecting our island and the flooding from bay water backflow from street storm drains are included in the study.

However, it is understood that under consideration are tidal gates in Barnegat and Manasquan inlets. This raises questions about the flooding impact in the south end of LBI if the two tidal gates are installed in the inlets to the north.

Plans are now being made for a stakeholders meeting and public hearing in September that pose the same issues of lack of transparency, lack of information to the public, no opportunity to question study findings or provide recommendations, and a location and time which pose as a hindrance for public comment.

The LBI Joint Council has sent letters of concern to the Lt. Col. Kristen Dahle, commander of the Army Corps’ Philadelphia District, and Catherine R. McCabe, DEP commissioner, requesting copies of the study in sufficient time to review prior to an anticipated public hearing.

The council also asks officials to conduct in August 2018 a question and answer public information meeting on LBI, as well as public hearing on LBI.

The Island is a unique ecosystem. Residents here have the right to provide input regarding projects that may directly affect their residences, safety and property values. Concerned citizens are urged to contact McCabe to demand changes to the transparency and communication processes that the Army Corps is utilizing concerning this essential study.

Peter Trainor

North Beach Haven

The writer is the chair of the Joint Council’s Environmental Committee.

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