Nature Conservancy Kick-Starts Ship Bottom ‘Living Shoreline’

Oct 03, 2018
File Photo by: Ryan Morrill

After initially begin turned down, Ship Bottom recently received a $35,000 Living Shoreline Grant from the state chapter of the Nature Conservancy for the engineering design and permitting of a project at Shore Avenue Park. The area in question is the western side of Ninth through 12th streets and south of the East Thorofare Bridge, part of the Causeway.

“It’s very important,” Councilman Joe Valyo said of the borough receiving the funds. “We couldn’t go anywhere without this. It’s exactly what we need to move forward.”

A natural, or living, shoreline uses sand fill, indigenous wetland plants and stone to preserve the shoreline and save the habitat from further destruction. Fixing the erosion problem there would help minimize flooding and runoff in the area and along Shore Avenue, according to the councilman.

“The project they’ve proposed is to design and eventually build a ‘hybrid’ living shoreline,” said John Truscinski, coastal resilience manager for the state chapter of Nature Conservancy. “It’s a win-win for people and nature, exactly the type of project TNC-NJ is looking to support with these grants.”

A living shoreline absorbs wave energy, negating its ability to erode the coastline. It also reduces nutrient runoff while maintaining the natural ecology of an area. Bulkheads perform in the exact opposite way of a natural shoreline, reflecting wave energy and increasing attrition. They are expensive to sustain and aren’t a long-lasting answer.

The area in question is eroding into the bay and causing harm on shore, Valyo said.

In announcing Ship Bottom’s grant, the Nature Conservancy noted, “The Shore Avenue Park living shoreline will be a great demonstration project for coastal communities interested in designing and building living shorelines in the Barnegat Bay watershed.”

The U.S. Department of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Services agrees, issuing a letter of support for the borough’s project to Mayor William Huelsenbeck earlier this year.

“The anticipated outcomes for this project are increased habitat for native fish and wildlife and decreased shoreline erosion. This project aligns itself with the service’s priorities of improving habitat for migratory fish and increasing coastal resiliency,” Eric Schrading, field supervisor, said in a May letter to the mayor.

He said the borough’s proposal to mitigate erosion utilizing a combination of wave-attenuating breakwater structures and sediment-stabilizing vegetation is the preferred alternative to bulkheading the shoreline.

Valyo, who has spearheaded the living shoreline project idea, agrees, saying it just makes sense for it in the area. He acknowledges there are other areas in the borough where a living shoreline just wouldn’t work, such as the end of Central Avenue and 28th Street, where the county is expected to replace a berm with a bulkhead sometime this fall.

In June, the Ship Bottom Council unanimously approved the purchase of a parcel of land to the south of the boat ramp to enhance the borough’s chances of getting funding for a living shoreline there. At that time, Huelsenbeck noted the privately owned lot was underwater. The borough paid $40,000 for the parcel and now owns the bayfront from the northernmost section of the boat ramp to the south side.

“We’ve lost 60 feet of land there due to erosion. We have to get the land put back,” Valyo has said, noting the more erosion that occurs, the quicker the land is lost. “It’s so weak now. We have to build it back up.”

A living shoreline, while still a relatively new concept in New Jersey, has been used nationwide for years. In the Long Beach Island region, Little Egg Harbor Township, acting as the lead agency for neighboring Tuckerton, awarded a contract for two separate living shoreline projects. The Iowa Court project in Little Egg Harbor includes shoring up an eroded cul-de-sac and creating a hybrid living shoreline, called so because it contains a hard structure.

In Tuckerton, the South Green Street living shoreline project contains two separate sections. The first is located along the cove that has eroded within feet of the roadway. The second section would continue from a point of land jutting out into the cove to the bulkhead at South Green Street Park. It was a beach in the 1960s.

— Gina G. Scala


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