The Fish Story

LBI Flooding Gets Complicated; Ins and Outs of ‘Littler’ Egg Inlet

By JAY MANN | Aug 07, 2018

SOUTH-END NOTION: I attended a meeting of the Island’s joint taxpayers. (See related story this issue.) It tentatively focused on our increasingly chronic roadway and back bay nuisance flooding. That’s the traffic-boggling type of flooding, when we’re contending with expanses of thigh-deep water, but not deep enough to have those waters invite themselves into house and home. While nuisance flooding isn’t a home breaker, it has been known to readily and expensively consume parked cars.

The meeting’s speakers were Stockton’s Stewart Farrell and Kimberly McKenna. They made a very fine presentation, beginning with an overview of where the Island had once been, geographically, and where it sits now – which is often a bit under the weather.

COMPLEX FLOODING: The meeting’s speakers were at an understandable loss when attendants somewhat angrily demanded they offer a cure for LBI’s flooding afflictions. I could have easily jumped up and pointed out that there is absolutely no easy fix. I implicitly know this. But, I just sat and sorta smiled instead.

I even sat and sorta smiled through some cringe-worthy flood-fighting suggestions loosed by those within the room, including the building of a dike – or was it a moat? – around the entire Island.

Another cringy comment, one that garnered some mild in-room support, was the idea of building west-facing bayside sand barriers, vis-à-vis frontbeach replenishments. It was pointed out that millions are being spent on beach fixes while the most love the Island’s bayside sector has garnered is a lone state-of-the-bay study … that has yet to be completed. I inwardly pondered the highly gerund point that likely 95 percent of the money-wielding visitors to LBI are here for the beach. I just sat and sorta smiled instead.

Along somewhat similar bayside buttressing lines, Farrell told of a New Jersey shore town now requiring the doubling of bayside bulkheading heights, a bulkhead replenishment with a touch of jolly old Holland. It’s not the worst raise-high-the-bulkhead-beams theory, providing everyone onboard understands the Inca concept of tightly contiguous. Should just one bulkhead not be perfectly in-system, there’s no Dutch boy finger large enough to stop the seepage. Such a bulkhead heightening effort also needs to abide by the idea of ad infinitum. It’s fine to have a watertight bulkhead bay barrier providing there are no ends, you know, for the bay water to simply end around – leaving said shore town with enough floodwater trapped landside by the bulkheads to become a stagnant water park.

Anyhow, it’s herein that I choose to stand up, virtually, and unfurl my belief that the Island’s onslaught of flooding, primarily from the Causeway south, is an imperfect storm … of land compression, overwrought sewer infrastructure and, possibly first and foremost, the slow failure of Little Egg Inlet.

GOING DOWN: With each passing vehicle, our beloved Island’s above-water terrain is being compressed into flood-prone compactness. Billions of tons worth of traffic have literally compressed many Island points to where, as one person at the meeting put it, “Even when a cloud passes over, it floods!”

Don’t balk at this sinking-surface concept, especially regarding the Boulevard. The weighing under of sandy shoreline communities is now being documented within other heavily populated coastal communities.

I’ll herein offer a novel compaction notion that the flooding itself issues monumentally weighty press-downs. Ponder point: One inch of rain ponding atop one acre of land weighs 113.31 tons. That’s just one inch! We frequently get three feet of floodwater, be it from wham-bam downpours or over-the-banks (and up the sewers) way-high tides. That’s 36 inches times 113 tons … crushingly sitting there for hours on end. You do the heavy math while I re-propose that every flood event is likely contributing to the further compressing of LBI’s low points. Flooding begets more flooding – and yet further compacting.

Worrisomely, compaction has a way of fanning out. We now have more and more flood-prone zones, as indicated by at-the-ready red barrels for closing off inundated lanes of the Boulevard.

This might be a good place to become unproductively annoying by pointing out that the rampant swapping out of absorbent grass for cold hard gravel on Island yards greatly enhances runoff. If flooding has shown us anything, it’s that runoff is ruinous. Yes, gravelly yards might well be a significant factor in sudden flooding … but I won’t overly go there, knowing the gravel will surely be staying -- you know, for the sake of easy, part-time yard care. Hey, rabbits, robins and earthworms can be so unsavory.

PIPES UNDER PRESSURE TO PERFORM: Now, onward to where our flood-related exasperation should be indirectly directed: Barnegat Bay, after all, it's the source of all flooding evil. I wonder how much gravel it would take to just fill it in.

Back to basics, floodwaters on LBI can only drain to the west. To accommodate the drainage, we’ve nobly tried to build a westward-aiming sewer outlet system, replete with big-ass pipes issuing street waters into the bay. In their defense, our system’s pipes really do their hard-pressed best to drain off wicked amounts of water. Those recent insta-deluges were rather decently directed bayward within a few hours, but not before utterly infuriating motorists and many a business owner.

Staying focused on the sewer systems, there’s no sidestepping the turncoat fact those same pipes gladly escort massive influxes of high tide bay water onto our streets, sometimes in catastrophic amounts. We’ve all seen the bay silently snaking out of the sewer grates and into the gutters … where they stop, nobody knows.

Island towns are fairly constantly trying to upgrade their sewer-system infrastructure. Along with wider and stronger piping, some outflow pipes are being equipped with one-way purging devices. In theory, water travels bayward through the pipe’s valve mechanism, then, flaps prevent water from backwashing. It’s a nice concept in, say, purgeable diving masks. However, so much litter and garbage washes into the Island’s sewer systems that the valves become fouled, opening the door to the anacondas of street flooding.

A more radical floodwater ameliorating concept, one being tried in Ship Bottom, is the use of power pumps. They literally suck up floodwater and shoot it into the bay. The method is heavily used in New Orleans, where a system of 24 pumping stations are constantly at the ready to blow away the Big Easy’s regularly scheduled torrential rains. I’ll limb out by mildly insinuating it just might work here, mainly for downpour flooding and entry-level tidal flooding … providing a coordinated, Island-wide pumping station system could be agreed upon by all LBI municipalities. I’ll leave it at that.

WHY WE FLOOD, REALLY: I’m going on 20 years of reporting that Barnegat Bay is shallowing, usually a very unhurried and natural process, mind you. Unnaturally, B Bay’s current shallowing is being fast-tracked by mankind’s over nutrification of its waters from runoff rich in fertilizers, organic waste and petrochemicals, all of which encourage rampant algae growth. When the likes of a “brown tide” algal bloom dies off, gazillions of tiny algae corpses drift downward, stacking up as bay-bottom detritus. This hikes up the bay bottom. Even otherwise beneficial forms of subaquatic vegetation can grow crazily when mankind inadvertently over feeds them. That material also bottoms out when decaying, post season.

Long and short of it, as we speak, the bay holds less and less water, meaning it takes to the streets faster than it did in deeper-bay days.

During the LBI Joint Taxpayer Associations meeting, bay shallowing was brought up, sparking thoughts about dredging the entire bay. Prof. Farrell quickly and duly questioned back, “Where are you going to put the dredge materials?”

Indeed. We all know the serious challenge of trying to relocate even small amounts of dredge material. An entire bay’s worth? If China doesn’t want it, we’re clean outta luck.

There’s one other, not-so-minor bay-dredging matter. To manually deepen the bay, we’d simultaneously be annihilating a fairly famed marine environment, one so sensitive and highly monitored that just the small portion of bay impacted by the ongoing Causeway rebuild couldn’t be done without the NJ Department of Transportation going through a dizzying permit process with NJ Department of Environmental Protection – with guarantees to restore other needy areas of the bay to compensate for even temporarily disturbing the bay bottom near the bridges.

Conservationists, myself included, need not be riled. Bay-wide dredging is not happening – no way, no how.

As a consolation prize, there’s a distant possibility that the long-neglected federal Intracoastal Waterway could be dredged. That’s a tad of deepening, without whacking the marine ecosystem. Might that help to lessen flooding? I’ll prevaricatingly say it would definitely help boating.

AN INADEQUATE INLET: It’s not a scientific stretch to say chronic flooding on LBI, south of the Causeway, stems from a deteriorating Little Egg Inlet. In fact, in this instance, I’ll focus on Little Egg Outlet.

Lower Barnegat Bay’s tidal exchange capacities have been petering out. The inlet is barely keeping its head above water in terms of fulfilling its obligation to regularly and tidally evacuate waters from lower Barnegat Bay. It is most noticeably lacking when compared to the dynamic water exchange on the Island’s north end bayside, where jettied and readied Barnegat Inlet handles tidal flow duties like a champ. I’m betting its dynamics can easily compensate for any bay shallowing. It might even slow eutrophication through its powerful daily water exchanges, which can reach right down to the bay bottom.

Back to the lagging Little Egg Inlet, matters thereabouts are being made worse by the shoaling of bayside channels just to its north, off Holgate. That shallowing is further pinching off what remains of the north/south water flow. I’ll spell it out by alleging that the reducing of LEI’s outgoing water flow is part and parcel to bayside flooding, even many miles away.

But this is yet another root problem that won’t be going anywhere soon.

There is absolutely no chance of manually assisting the inlet’s water flow through the most common and relatively effective method known: jettying the sucker – followed by sucking sand out of the jettied inlet on a highly regular basis – you know, Barney-style. Oh, back off! I’m not proposing such a move whatsoever. I’m just here to lay all the flood cards on the table – to let the chips float where they may. In this case, you can safely bet that flooding, as we now know it will likely carry on, albeit transferred a bit with planned road raisings and repaving with a more pronounced crowning.

To prevent parting on a flooded-out parting note, I will again mildly hype the pump station concept. While it won’t stand a hell’s snowball chance of pumping away a “big one,” it could very likely work in greatly reducing short-term nuisance flooding, from summer downpours or even winter road-barrel high tides.

RUNDOWN: How can it be August? What form of sorcery is this? May you somehow rate this summer as moving comfortably along. I’ll just sit here and moan away at my work desk.

The ocean cleaned up amazingly well over the weekend. You could see the brownish water being muscled out by a gorgeously clear blue/green ocean.

As expected, stingray sightings quickly arose, while related shark hookups also made a showing in the surf. While most nearshore sharks are far more predatory at night, daytime angling action on browns has made for some fun surfside photos – prior to their release. Most day sharks are maybe three to four feet long, tops. Night browns – and sand tigers – are way bigger.

It seems we’re locked in a less-than-gusty wind stint, meaning the final stretch before the end of fluking days should offer plenty of smooth drifting.

The fluking in the surf is downright hot, especially if you can find some groin rocks poking through the replenishment sands. While keeper fluke are hard to come by, I saw two, very nice, take-home flatties leaving the beach in Cedars. A buddy of mine has been fly-fishing for them in the troughs, using slow sinking line and I believe he said, “Clousers.”

I’m getting word of kingfish in the surf. Small to midsize models. It’s the right time of year for them. The calmer wave action is allowing for the use of lighter gear, needed to feel these panfish biting.

When kingfishing, it seems best to allow baited rigs to move around a lot. Use bank or pillow sinkers. Maybe go with a slow and steady retrieving of special kingfish rigs. Red floats seem to help the cause. Best baits are small pieces of bloodworms, fake-o bloodworm bits and (to a lesser degree) GULP.

Kingfish are a schooling fish, as can be seen by snorkeling over them. Once you’re on them, angling-wise, you can repeatedly hook up.

As for boat fishing kingfish on the bay, it’s best to anchor on the edge of deeper water … and chum. Mussels or clams are the cheapest chumables. Kingfish quickly take to the slick, along with blowfish and an occasional fluke. Action is often mid water column. Bobbers work perfectly.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.