Little Egg Harbor and Tuckerton Share $2.13 Million Sandy Resiliency Grant

Federal Aid to Dredge Lagoons and Build Up Bay Shoreline
By PAT JOHNSON | Jun 18, 2014
Photo by: Pat Johnson Radio Road beach along Great Bay is a vibrant spot for horseshoe crabs and the shorebirds that benefit from their eggs. This beach, like others along the bayfront in Little Egg Harbor and Tuckerton, may obtain replenishing from Sandy Resiliency funding.

Little Egg Harbor Township and Tuckerton officials received word on Monday that they have been successful at getting a $2.13 million federal Sandy Resiliency grant to build up some areas of shoreline impacted by Superstorm Sandy, and may also use dredge material to do it.

Both communities worked in tandem with the independent, nonprofit organization New Jersey Future. Tuckerton Business Administrator Jenny Gleghorn said she was grateful for the organization’s strategic planner, Leah Yasenchak, and the work she did on their behalf in applying for the grant.

Silted lagoons on Osborn Island in Little Egg Harbor, plus areas of Tuckerton Beach, Thompson Creek and Paradise Cove in Tuckerton will all be dredged to some degree to build up the edge of the marsh.

“There will be some dredging, some beach replenishment in Tuckerton Beach and the Forsythe Wildlife Refuge. We don’t know yet the entire scope of the project,” said Gleghorn. “We will be putting out an RFP (request for proposal) for the engineering work.”

Tuckerton Councilman John Schwartz said the borough and the township worked together with New Jersey Future, a consulting firm that was supplied through Federal Emergency Management Agency money to plan for future storm resiliency projects. “We did our homework. Whatever we could do to get grants, we did,” said Schwartz, after Sandy had devastated the lagoon communities. “We talked to the right people – we hounded them.

“We can use the money for a number of things for restoration and mitigation, though we are waiting for more direction. We may be able to dredge some parts of the lagoons and build up the edges of land.”

Little Egg Harbor Assistant Business Administrator Mike Fromosky said township officials are very happy with the news. “Between New Jersey Future, and the folks at Jacques Cousteau (National Estuarine Research Reserve), and our own followup with the NJDEP, we were able to secure the grant despite some fierce competition. We did a joint application with Tuckerton and it will be very beneficial to both towns.”

Fromosky said the grant could be used to restore a “living shoreline” (made of coconut mats that mussels grow on) along areas on Osborn Island that were impacted by Sandy. “The marsh area along Iowa Court is an area where the marsh was eroded. And we also hope to build a fishing pier there for public access, a pier similar to the one that was built in New Gretna.

“Building up the shoreline is a beneficial use of the dredge material that will be cleared from lagoons on Osborn Island and perhaps elsewhere on Mystic Island. We’re still working on the scope of the projects; we have to see how far the money goes.”

Fromosky also thanked Yasenchak, the Cousteau research reserve, Rutgers University and Richard Stockton State College. “They did the important work of collecting data and technical work.”

Fromosky noted that none of this technical help, including the work of New Jersey Future, was paid for by local taxpayers. “It was all federal money. And we also had a lot of support from the governor’s office. They responded immediately to our request for help and sent us New Jersey Future to get the ball rolling.”

In some respects, the silt from Sandy only exacerbated some areas where mud had already eroded into lagoons over the years. Obtaining federal funds to use the mud from the bottom of lagoons to shore up marsh banks will allow homeowners to use their boats at all times, not just during high tide.

The Osborn Island Taxpayers Association had been trying for three years to get the mouth of that area’s lagoons dredged. The association raised $61,500 to hire engineers and apply for state Department of Environmental Protection permits. These efforts will not go to waste, said association officer Dave Fuller, because the money spent for permits will count as part of a local share matching contribution. According to the grant application, the two communities will provide $91,500 in matching contributions, which can include time and sweat equity.

“New Jersey Future reached out to us in this regard,” said Fuller.

The Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competitive Grant Program, administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation under the U.S. Department of the Interior, supports projects that reduce communities’ vulnerability to the growing risk from coastal storms, sea level rise, flooding, erosion and associated threats, through strengthening natural ecosystems that also benefit fish and wildlife. Projects were considered that assess, restore, enhance or create wetlands, beaches and other natural systems to help better protect communities and to mitigate the impact of future storms. More than 375 submitted proposals competed for $568 million in federal funding.

The Tuckerton/Little Egg Harbor grant is among five southern New Jersey environmental restoration projects totaling $13,747,250 in federal funding.

According to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Tuckerton and Little Egg Harbor project will dredge lagoon communities resulting in the restoration and opening of seven miles of stream area. Specifically, the dredging will occur in Tuckerton Beach, Paradise Cove and Osborn Island. The dredged materials will be put to use to restore and replenish six acres of marsh and wetlands by closing some mosquito ditches and unused lagoons that were dug in the 1960s but not built on.

Erosion controls will be in the form of sand-filled Geotubes in the Mystic Island Natural Land Trust site, near Iowa Court.

The grant will also cover beach replenishment at the Tuckerton Beach bay beach, where years of erosion has reduced the recreation benefit and threatened South Green Street.

An experimental, marsh-strengthening project within the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge will spread thin layers of mud in areas yet to be determined to try to build and strengthen the marsh.

According to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, “The dredging and habitat restoration will directly benefit 1,038 homes and numerous fish, reptile, amphibian, mammal and bird populations including the red knot and the American oystercatcher. It will also indirectly benefit the two towns’ population of 23,412 citizens, strengthen a natural buffer from storm surges, protect critical infrastructure, and preserve the tax base.

“The project will directly create an estimated 40 temporary jobs, and indirectly preserve the bay shore economic activities of fishing, crabbing and oyster farming.”

Other communities and organizations that will benefit from the Sandy Resiliency funding:

In addition to the Tuckerton/Little Egg Harbor project, the American Littoral Society received $4,750,000 to restore 50 acres of wetlands within six interrelated Delaware Bay coastal sites in Cape May and Cumberland counties. Each site is an integral unit of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, a known spawning area for horseshoe crabs during spring, and a major stopover point for northbound migrant shorebirds that feed on the crab eggs.

Along the Atlantic Coast and Delaware Bay, $3,420,000 will go to restore 90 acres of salt marsh in Avalon, Stone Harbor and Fortescue. The state Department of Environmental Protection Office of Natural Resource Restoration will enhance habitat and reduce vulnerability to flooding and erosion.

Ocean City will receive $2,167,250 to restore hundreds of acres of damaged island wetlands in Great Egg Harbor Bay.

patjohnson@thesandpaper.net

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