Long Beach Island Homeowners, Stockton University Scientists Discuss Back-Bay Flooding

U.S. Army Corps to Hold Public Meetings on Related Study in September
Aug 08, 2018
Photo by: Jay Mann

Long Beach Island residents aren’t focused on who’ll stop the rain but, rather, on how to alleviate flooding from the back bays during rain storms and more-significant storms. Stockton University’s Coastal Research Center director and founder Stewart Farrell and its director of sponsored programs, Kimberly McKenna, met with members of the LBI Joint Council of Taxpayers last Wednesday, Aug. 1, in Brant Beach to discuss exactly that.

A number of locals in attendance – including Brian Farias of Farias Surf and Sport, which is situated along a flood-prone section of Long Beach Boulevard in Ship Bottom – pointed out that the federal government, via the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ replenishment projects, continues to spend a lot of money to repair and extend the ocean beaches, but much of the damage from Superstorm Sandy was caused by flooding from the bay. In addition, nuisance flooding from heavy rains and higher tides than usual has been increasing, plaguing drivers in particular.

Farrell and McKenna noted that the Corps is in fact about two thirds of the way through a study on back-bay flooding, which prompted this rhetorical question, from Farias and others: Why just recently, now six years after Sandy, is the federal government turning its attention to the bay?

Regardless, the USACE announced Monday that it will host public meetings regarding its New Jersey Back Bays Flood Risk Management study on Sept. 12 in Ventnor City, and on Sept. 13 in Toms River.

The Army Corps, in partnership with the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection, “is conducting a feasibility study for coastal storm risk management problems within the New Jersey Back Bay area, defined as the network of interconnected tidal water bodies located landward of the New Jersey ocean coastline in Monmouth, Ocean, Atlantic, Burlington and Cape May Counties,” a Corps press release stated. “The study area includes approximately 950 square miles and nearly 3,400 miles of shoreline. The objective of the study is to investigate problems and solutions to reduce damages from coastal flooding that affects population, critical infrastructure, critical facilities, property and ecosystems.”

According to USACE Public Affairs Officer Steve Rochette, “Some of the measures that will be discussed at the public meetings include structural solutions such as storm surge barriers, tide gates, levees and floodwalls; non-structural solutions such as elevating homes; and nature-based features such as marsh restoration and the creation of living shorelines.”

The general public and other stakeholders are invited to attend the meetings to learn more about the study process and current status, and to provide feedback and interact with project team members.

Meeting details are as follows: 6 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 12 at the Ventnor Educational Community Complex at 400 North Lafayette Ave. in Ventnor City, and 6 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 13 in Ocean County College’s Gateway Building, on College Drive in Toms River.

Back in Brant Beach last week, the Stockton scientists fielded a number of questions about the possibility of dredging the bay, and continuing to dredge the inlets at the Island’s south end, including Little Egg Inlet to the south, from which sand was pulled earlier this year and placed on the ocean beaches of Holgate and Beach Haven.

McKenna discussed the state project to remove dangerous shoals from the southern inlet, noting that Stockton did pre-project surveys, and will revisit the site to check the elevations to “determine the amount of change, volume-wise, offshore” and perform topographic surveys as well.

Dredging the bay and/or the inlets may or may not mitigate the problem to the degree desired, but, as Farrell and McKenna noted, there are some stiff roadblocks for an attempt: namely permits and money.

“It took two years of difficult battles” for the state to receive permission to dredge Little Egg Inlet, said Farrell. “We’ve been having these arguments forever,” in part because of concern for the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge and its inhabitants, as well as local marine life.

Farrell, who showed PowerPoint slides of the Island’s changes from 1879 to 2010, including the historic March 1962 storm and the new groin in Barnegat Light in 1995, also stated what we all do know: “Long Beach Island is not static. Unfortunately, you live on a dramatically changing piece of real estate.”

“There is no easy, consistent fix” for back bay flooding, and, he added, “Sea level rise is going to continue,” due to Earth’s natural processes and because of what humans have done to accelerate it.

The USACE study may present some viable potential solutions, but for now, Stockton does have a few investigations of its own underway, and some ideas to help alleviate nuisance flooding on a more localized level. This includes devices that have been placed throughout Long Beach Township, as well as Beach Haven, to monitor depth, frequency and duration of flooding and use that information as a starting point of sorts.

Farrell also explained a bulkhead elevation study conducted in Stone Harbor, the outcome of which was a mandate that the community’s bulkheads – which are meant “to retain the upland surface and kind of keep the water at bay,” said Farrell, no pun seemingly intended – must now be at least 7.5 feet high when new, and homeowners with an existing bulkhead less than 5 feet high have five years to replace it. Also, where the bulkheads meet has to be watertight.

Bulkhead protocol, similar to impervious coverage regulations and storm drain maintenance, is an example of something local governing bodies can modify to help reduce flooding.

Also in the works is a project to replace Holgate’s terminal groin – Wooden Jetty – begun in January 2017 and spearheaded by Long Beach Township, with Stockton undertaking the field evaluation and conceptual design, in an effort to help stave off the rapid erosion in that area.

Township Engineer Frank Little is currently working with NJDEP engineers on design specification and permits for the project, and a public information session will be announced at some point in the near future.

Bill Hutson, LBI Joint Council of Taxpayers president, also asked Farrell and McKenna if they would be able to provide assistance with an emergency permit the township has filed to help with the 15- to 20-foots cliffs on the beach in part of Holgate. The scientists said they’d have to look into the details of when and with whom the permit request was filed.

Juliet Kaszas-Hoch

juliet@thesandpaper.net

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