NJDEP Finally Approves Ship Bottom’s Central Avenue Bulkhead Project

Nov 14, 2018
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Christmas is coming early for some residents of Ship Bottom. The much-awaited permit to replace the eroded berm at the end of Central Avenue, where it intersects with West 28th Street, with a bulkhead has finally been approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The approval comes more than two months after borough officials announced the county-led project to build a bulkhead in one of the most flood-prone areas in town would begin after Labor Day, and six months after DEP officials said they would fast-track the approval once a permit was received. In fact, the DEP said in 2016 that it would approve a permit to replace the berm with a bulkhead, but borough officials were never made aware of that until last fall. Mayor William Huelsenbeck, in turn, notified the county, which is responsible for Central Avenue and fixing the problem.

Just prior to learning of the permit’s approval, Ocean County Engineer John Ernst said once it was issued, county personnel would install the bulkhead. The news of the permit’s approval filtered in through borough Councilman Joe Valyo, who received an update on the permit request from a contact at the DEP’s Division of Land Use Regulation Nov. 8. Valyo discussed the issue with two DEP employees over the summer while at a course on living shorelines held at the Jacques Cousteau Coastal Education Center in Tuckerton.

“Unfortunately, that’s what you have to do,” he said of discussing the project with the employees, who, in fact, issue permits for projects like the berm replacement. “We were waiting for a year. Ninety percent of our problem is right there.”

The wait time saw severe flooding in the area, confining residents in their homes, with tidal flood surges multiple times, including last week when the rising tide left the area impassable for several hours on Election Day.

Valyo noted the flooding last week started with the water overcoming the eroded berm, making its way across West 28th Street and toward the Boulevard. There was no flooding at the end of West 28th Street where it meets the bay since the borough undertook a bulkhead replacement project earlier this year, he said. There was also no flooding between 25th and 27th streets near the bay, according to Valyo.

Replacing the berm with a bulkhead is the second step in mitigating flood waters in the borough. Flooding is caused by water that comes in more quickly than it recedes, regardless of whether it’s storm-related or sunny-day flooding. Years ago, borough officials addressed the issue by installing tie valves, which force the water to flow in only one direction. Although it’s helped somewhat, water can become trapped in the pipes for a period of time before being flushed out.

In the spring, Ernst said the county would take a look at the tie valves as part of its mitigation project, noting even with the solutions in place, “you can still expect some flooding.”

Before last Memorial Day, the Ocean County Roads Department raised the crown of Long Beach Boulevard from 24th Street in Ship Bottom to 33rd Street in neighboring Long Beach Township. Depending on the area of the roadway, the crown was raised between 6 and 8 inches in an effort to alleviate flooding in the center turn lane, allowing one lane of water-free, or almost water-free, driving during a tidal or storm flood.

Raising the crown of the roadway was the first step in addressing the overarching flood issue on the Boulevard in the area of West 28th Street, which impacts every motorist traveling south on the Island. In Long Beach Township and Beach Haven, motorists are often redirected to the higher-elevated ocean roads when the Boulevard is impassable due to flood waters in those communities. However, a contiguous, alternate ocean road route doesn’t exist in Ship Bottom; all the traffic converges at the worst area for flooding in the borough.

The final step is the installation of a pump station to help water recede more quickly.

— Gina G. Scala


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