The Fish Story

Nothing Terminal in This Groin Project; Black Flies De-People Beaches

By JAY MANN | Sep 04, 2018

With the tourist season on the outbound lane, it’s time to talk the local talk, beginning with the growingly controversial proposed terminal groin for the south end of Holgate proper, i.e. the lived-upon section. Such a build would impact residents, surfers, surfcasters, Sierra Clubists and sundry south end user groups, most of whom are passionate about that area.

I’ve remained within spittin’ distance of the groin-to-be issue, discussing it openly on my regular blog at I helped publicize the Army Corps of Engineers’ recent “Public Notice” regarding the status of the terminal groin’s permitting process. In ACE’s eyes, it’s good to go, with an opening date of … this month.

Yowza. However, not all federal agencies are firmly onboard just yet.

Expectedly, the proposed beachfront build has fostered debate. A petition is being floated by waveriders opposed to what’s seen as the destruction of a mighty fine surfing spot, named “Wooden Jetty,” referencing a small groin located exactly where the big-ass groin will rise. Holgate homeowners have actively gone counterpoint, begging the state to speed up the process for building the sand-grabbing terminal groin, while accusing the surfers of opting to save waves instead of saving homes.

I’ll momentarily sidestep that debate, though not before all but guaranteeing that a Holgate terminal groin would lead to the formation of an epic new surf break, just to its south. That offered, I fully and unequivocally support the rights of both sides to rally to high heavens – and, maybe, to high courts. You can take the man (me) out of the protesting Sixties but you can’t take the Sixties out of the now equally numbered man.

SOME DUE DATA: I’ll herein offer insights into the terminal groin project’s first phase: demolishing “Wooden Jetty.”

How does one demo a rather ancient wooden bulkhead-like groin? As I was told by project higher ups, a huge crane, dangling fierce grabbers, would seize the tops of Wooden Jetty’s current deeply-driven pilings. Once a-bite, the crane would pull them straight up – as in dangling-in-mid-air up. That would be quite the sight to see by my wouldn’t-miss-it thinking.

In the lift-up process, the wooden side planking, horizontally attached to pilings, would get violently torn asunder. The splintered demo mess would then get loaded onto industrial-strength trucks for transport to licensed disposal sites. It might be fun to top every debris load with a huge colorful postcard reading “Greetings From LBI.” Less chuckle-worthy, I’m guessing the dump trucks might find the narrow Causeway bridge lanes a hairy passage.

As to Wooden Jetty’s semi-historic granite stones, they’ll not only stay put but will be recycled, beginning a new phase of life akin to the little groin that could, having suddenly assumed instant terminal groin timbre.

Per the ACE notice, the terminal groin “would use steel sheeting, core stone and armor stone, including the re-use of existing stone.”

For those who like official measurements, the groin would extend 490 feet waterward of the mean high tide line and 380 feet beyond the mean low water line. If you need a more graspable impression, the groin will be over a football field distance out to sea, the biggest groin on LBI by a long shot. It would stand over eight feet out of the water, even at high tide, though the final stretch would be more like 3.5 feet above mean high tide, meaning a sure washover danger for any anglers fishing the end during rough seas.

There would also be excavating to bring the groin down to a pre-established baseline: the moving of approximately 10,239 cubic yards of material, counting Wooden Jetty “rubble.”

The demolition process will have its complexities. When all semblances of bulwark from the old groin are gone, a window of erosional opportunity will be wide open. Should an optimistic nor’easter come up the pike right about then? Such a glaring vulnerability should have planners pondering the option of first vibrating down the new steel sheets, which are blueprinted to serve as the groin’s backbone – and prime sand stopper. The sheets will extend from roughly the parking lot, eastward, 300 feet. They’ll go down 20 feet into the sand. There will likely remain a huge drop-off to their south, as there has long been with Wooden Jetty’s bulwark.

When emplaced, the series of steel sheets could be enough to bring the site back to the modest sand-blocking capabilities of Wooden Jetty’s wall. That’s huge, because it would allow the project to take a break of up to a year before the heavy lifting and intricate placement of stones commences.

Of import, the 100-foot width of the groin will allow a crane to drive atop it, strategically placing multiple layers of various-sized stones. The entire length should be angler-friendly, highlighted by an enlarged, somewhat rounded end portion. Keep in mind, though, the success of the groin, as a sand stopper, should leave much of its north side high and sandily dry.

This proposed build is a local, state and federal affair. Along with the already-onboard Army Corps, the feds come in from a seemingly more hostile United States Fish and Wildlife Service angle. The FWS recently claimed it has not been properly updated about the intricacies and impacts of a terminal groin. I guess they don’t read my blogs – going back a couple years now. Even the Army Corps is confused by the FWS claims of being excluded.

For the FWS, it comes down to worrying about endangered species, especially any threat the terminal groin might have on the nearby summer haunts of piping plover and black skimmers. Any real – or some might say imagined – danger to endangered species could spell stoppage for the build, per the Endangered Species Act. There is also a Wilderness Act angle, via the nearby/adjacent Forsythe Refuge, which must ponder any deleterious trickledown erosion effects posed by the groin.

DOWNDRIFT DILEMMA: Thinking in terms of LBI’s highly energetic sand-transport ability, a terminal groin would be terminal in terminology only. In Holgate, I’m betting such a structure would be far from a dead stop for migrating sand. To be sure, it would be an irritating obstacle for the prevalent southward beach movement. At the same time, highly legit hydrological theories propose the all-natural, refuge-adjacent beachline south of a Holgate terminal groin could quickly turn anorectic, starved of incoming sand by a super groin.

While I was among those who first suggested such a downdrift sand starvation scenario, I’m now also glancing over at the 800-trillion-pound sand gorilla in the room. I’m talking about the replenishment creature, which will keep on keeping on for many decades to come. Unprecedented amounts of beach material have already been pumped ashore on LBI. Every grain is on a southbound journey, at varying speeds. In highly-sound theory, every one of those grains – from the pre- and post-Sandy beach repairs, along with the re-replenishing happening now – will tumble to Holgate and, ultimately, onto the refuge, or out onto shoals located off Little Egg Inlet. However, what we have is a never-before-seen sand scenario, meaning it is sheer guesswork as to how it will all roll in the long run.

Might a north-to-south sand onslaught mean the beachline along the Forsythe Refuge would receive enough renourishment, even with a terminal groin? I’ll go highly unscientific by saying that simply seems too simple. Others must agree, because there are contingency plans allowing for the emergency notching of the terminal groin to feed sand to the beachline below.

GO WEST, OLD SAND: Adding to the geological complexities impacting the area leeward of the proposed terminal groin is the naturally occurring westward movement of LBI’s only unfettered section – the 2.5-mile natural stretch from the parking lot to the Island’s most southerly point. Yes, LBI is actually 20.5 miles long … but who’s counting. The refuge real estate has no bayside bulkheads to hold it in place, meaning it’s free to mosey westward, even way westward. To date, its progress has already started to pinch off the channel between Holgate and bayside sedges, like the Sheepsheads. While this natural process should move at a sub snail’s pace, everything from an unnaturally advancing coastal shoreline to mankind’s build-out along the rest of LBI are conspiring to bring about a century’s worth of geophysical change in a mere handful of years. Future shock can be shockingly fast.

It’s a tad hard to envision, but Holgate’s south end, from just below the parking lot, is destined to move west of the farthest bulkheaded bayside point of LBI. However, should a concurrent sand fill-in occur along the beachfront, it could then result in the widest area on all of LBI.

I’ll hereby give you some time to think about this. There’s a ton more in play; stay tuned here and at my blog, where I speak more freely, i.e. politically.

EPIC BITEDOWN: Being highly attuned to Island long-timers, an incident whereby loads of LBI lifers alert me to something qualifying as, “The worst I’ve ever seen,” commands some lip service. Hereby, I’m speaking of the half day of beachside bloodletting that occurred last week when a formidable and voracious fleet of black flies flew in on west winds. The cruising creatures instantly set their bloodsucking sights upon a delicious buffet of skin-exposed mammalian creatures lulling about on beaches below. The attack that ensued was merciless.

The black fly bitedown was so intense that LBI beaches were abandoned by every sensible soul, presenting a bizarre people-empty seaside scene on an otherwise ideal sunny summer day. As proof of the sneak attack’s severity, revenue-garnering beach badge checkers were told to abandon ship. I was emailed a photo of legs so savagely fly bitten that I had to turn my head away, Exorcist-like. I know the bewretched pain of manifold fly bites.

The short-lived plague – gone with an afternoon south winds – was the indirect result of tons of rain and sweltering heat on the mainland and sedge islands. Those are all conducive to population explosions of stable flies (Stomoxys calcitrans), the more technical name for black flies.

Out of fear and loathing, I highlight this attack as a warning to fall anglers. The flies shall return, along with any biting friends who heard tell of the feastlands to the east. If you espy west winds blowing, be ready to dress to the hilt. Even an inch of exposed skin will be subjected to barbaric attacks. If need be, resort to one of those dorky-looking head nets.

I can assure that there is absolutely no bug spray that will keep black flies at biting bay. I’ve put on repellent sprays and lotions so thick the flies had to don tiny diving masks and use sidestrokes to swim down through it to commence biting. All I could see was their little snorkel tops sticking out. Yes, I tend to hallucinate when fly-bitten too many times.

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