County, State OK Flood Relief Work in Ship Bottom

Apr 04, 2018
Courtesy of: Ship Bottom Police Department

The Ship Bottom Borough Council will hold a special meeting next week to award a contract for a new bulkhead at the end of 28th Street, part of a trifecta of solutions being put in play to ease some of the hardest-hit, flood-prone areas in town. The meeting is slated for the morning of Wednesday, April 11.

Mayor William Huelsenbeck made the announcement at the March 27 meeting after back-to-back nor’easters walloped the gateway community, forcing some residents indoors for days until the water receded enough for them to leave without risk. While the two nor’easters were problematic for local residents, they were the catalyst for finally getting Ocean County engineering officials to take action on two solutions borough officials, along with their counterparts from Long Beach Township and Beach Haven, have been pushing for more than a year: a pump station and raising the crown of Long Beach Boulevard in the turn lane to allow for passable roads during a flood event.

“They surveyed the Boulevard and agreed to raise the crown,” Huelsenbeck said, noting before Superstorm Sandy 28th Street, a county road, was closed four times. In the five years since the storm, the road has been shut down 49 times. “We’ve always had flooding, but not like now. The water is rising.”

Raising the crown of the Boulevard, between 23rd and 30th streets, will create an almost flood-free zone for cars traveling through town. Currently, most motorists use the center turning lane to bypass high water overwhelming the driving lanes going north and south through that area of the borough. In Long Beach Township and Beach Haven, motorists can travel on the oceanside roads when the Boulevard is impassable due to flood waters. However, all that traffic converges in Ship Bottom, creating traffic snarls and dangerous conditions as motorists vie to get through the flooded area first.

Water comes in more quickly than it recedes, causing the flooding. Ship Bottom officials had addressed the flooding 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.

“It’s not going to help you,” the mayor acknowledged when addressing a resident, adding the approval of a pump station from 24th to 33rd streets would benefit residents in that area. “The pump is first. The center lane, that’s the last thing. The pump is the biggest deal.”

A test run of a pump station showed it can move all the flood water from the most problematic area and empty the pipes by creating enough head pressure to push the water out and back into the bay, according to Councilman Dave Hartman.

Also, a big deal is the state Department of Environmental Protection’s commitment to approve a bulkhead application to replace the berm at the end of 28th Street and Central Avenue, Huelsenbeck said. While the DEP agreed more than a year ago, word didn’t reach the borough until last fall, according to the mayor. Huelsenbeck said they had to tell the county.

“They (the county) are in the process of applying for the permit,” he said, adding the approval process should be fast. “Well, government fast.”

In addition to the new bulkhead at the end of 28th Street and replacing the berm at the end of 28th Street and Central Avenue, the borough is expected to require all new or replaced bulkheads to be 5 feet.

“It’s going take 30 to 40 years to get everyone up to 5 feet,” Huelsenbeck said, adding the current bulkhead elevation is less than 4 feet. “We are fighting a rising tide.”

Borough residents are also facing an increase in motorists traveling through flood waters at a high rate of speed, creating a wake that floods their yards, garages and homes in areas that might not otherwise be flooded. Several residents brought the issue to the borough council March 28. Richard Cummins asked the council to consider closing local roads to individuals who do not live on the Island.

“The police are aware,” Councilman Joe Valyo said of the wakes being created by drivers. “Ship Bottom is unique. Everything flows through Ship Bottom. We may want to shut down, but it shuts down the whole Island. The north/south roads are county roads. We need county approval; they tell us what we can and can’t do.”

— Gina G. Scala

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