Flood Relief Solutions Under Fire in Ship Bottom

May 30, 2018
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Richard Cummins is vexed by the decision to raise the crown of Long Beach Boulevard in one of the most flood-prone areas on Long Beach Island before other relief solutions are put into play. He took his concerns, not for the first time, to the Ship Bottom Borough Council’s recent monthly meeting, wanting to know who pushed for the work to be done.

“Long Beach Township, Beach Haven and Ship Bottom,” Mayor William Huelsenbeck said, noting it took more than a year for the county to act on a request from the Island’s three southernmost communities to address flooding concerns.

Earlier this month, the Ocean County Roads Department, using a plan put together by the county engineering department, raised the crown of the Boulevard from 24th Street in the borough to 33rd Street in neighboring Long Beach Township. Depending on the area of the roadway, the crown was raised between 6 to 8 inches in an effort to alleviate flooding but with no impact on commercial or residential properties in the area.

Cummins, who has extensive experience in this type of work and who lives in the flood-prone area, isn’t opposed to the work being done, just the timing of it.

“No one addressed (the issue) of the manhole covers,” he said. “You don’t top coat until the manhole castings are adjusted. I don’t understand the county. Why was the work done improperly?”

Huelsenbeck said the county did the manhole castings for most of the covers and the crown raising had to be done prior to the start of hurricane season, which begins June 1 and runs through Nov. 1.

“This has been in the works for over a year,” the mayor said, noting the traffic bottleneck in the area. “The fire was the icing on the cake.”

During one of the March nor’easters, a fire truck coming from the south end of the Island couldn’t get around the traffic after two vehicles got stuck in the flood waters between 33rd Street in the township and 24th street in Ship Bottom.

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, Ocean County Engineer John Ernst has said, acknowledging that all the traffic converges at the worst area for flooding in the borough.

The crown raising is just one of a trifecta of solutions being but into play by officials, and it must be addressed first, according to Ernst.

“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 from showers. 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.

Ernst said the county will be looking at the tie valves as part of the project, which also includes seeking a permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection to replace the berm at the end of West 28th Street and Central Avenue, also a county road, with a bulkhead.

In addition to the county bulkhead project, the borough awarded a $96,000 contract April 11 to Wickberg Marine Contract of Belford to replace the bulkhead at the end of West 28th Street. Officials have said the replacement bulkhead, which will be nearly 2 feet higher than the current one, will help hold back the rising bay waters. In fact, the borough council is expected to introduce an ordinance requiring all new or replaced bulkheads to be 5 feet in height. The current bulkhead elevation is less than 4 feet.

“You can still expect some flooding,” Ernst said, noting how close the roadway is to the bay in the flood-prone area. “This is a unique spot on the Island. I can say this is a test. It’s not going to solve everything.”

The flood relief work brings with it an unintentional consequence, however, for Lorianne Lowy, who lives on East 28th Street. She told the council her sidewalk, curb and driveway were damaged by construction vehicles.

“It has to be replaced,” she told the council, “not patched. Color is almost secondary. We spent money on that driveway. We’ve lost the warranty.”

She also said if the sidewalk and curb aren’t replaced in their entirety it will impact the resale value of her home if, 15 or 20 years down the line, she decides to sell.

Huelsenbeck said the borough would facilitate a meeting with Lowy and the contractor to discuss her concerns.

— Gina G. Scala



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