Residents of Surf City’s Flood-Prone Sixth Street Look for Relief

Oct 17, 2018

Surf City Mayor Frances Hodgson isn’t convinced an underground pump system will solve the recurring flooding on Sixth Street. It’s one of the suggestions residents of the street want reviewed before the borough moves ahead with preliminary plans to raise the road.

“I don’t believe in pumps,” he said, noting the sea level is rising. “We don’t want a Venice (Italy) here.”

Borough Engineer Frank Little is working on plans to resolve the flooding issue now, officials said. There is no timeline for when a solution would be implemented.

Earlier this month, borough officials, including Little, met with a number of Sixth Street residents to discuss flooding. Linda Grasso was unable to attend, but did go to the Oct. 10 council meeting with some ideas of her own to help mitigate flooding, including the suggestion of using underground water storage tank.

“It won’t work here,” Councilman William Hodgson said. “That works on the mainland where the land is 20 feet above sea level. Sixth Street is 3 feet above sea level. We live on a sandbar.”

Grasso wasn’t giving up, though, suggesting there has to be a solution that doesn’t include raising the street so the properties are flooded. That’s a big concern for residents, who are left anything but high and dry during flood events.

“Barnegat Avenue was raised and there was no problem this summer,” Mayor Hodgson said, noting on 12th Street someone cut into the bulkhead so the water would drain into the bay.

Surf City officials aren’t alone in dealing with flood-prone areas, even on sunny days. In neighboring Ship Bottom, officials have been working for years to resolve flood issues in one of the most flood-prone areas on the Island, West 28th Street, Central Avenue and Long Beach Boulevard. In May, the county road department raised the crown of the Boulevard between 24th Street in the borough and 33rd Street in Long Beach Township in a bid to keep the center-turn lane passable during a flood event.

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. 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.

Without the crown raising, a pump would constantly siphon water, County Engineer John Ernst has said.

“There would be no place for the pump to pump,” he said. “We don’t want to recirculate the water.”

Ship Bottom and county officials are waiting for the state Department of Environmental Protection to issue a permit to replace a berm at the end of Central Avenue with a bulkhead.

Back in Surf City, Grasso wondered if the fact more and more homeowners are going with pavers for driveways than gravel or stone is stopping the water from receding, causing an uptick in flood events.

Surprisingly, the answer is no. Mayor Hodgson said the county recommends pavers to gravel because during a flood event the gravel often is washed away, making its way into storm drains. That clogs the drains and causes the drains to flood even when there is no tidal flooding.

“There are pros and cons to everything,” the mayor said, noting officials received a letter from residents of Sixth Street with a number of suggestions to address the issue.

In fact, during the Oct. 3 meeting with Sixth Street residents, officials asked for a signed letter from the residents. They received the letter, but it wasn’t signed.

“We didn’t expect to talk about this tonight,” resident Richard Barry, who spearheaded the campaign, said. He also said he spoke with a lawyer friend who indicated the letter didn’t have to be signed by each resident.

The mayor disagreed, saying in order for the borough to earmark funds toward fixing the problem it needs to substantiate whether a majority is in favor of the fix. He estimated the borough would need to allot about $150,000 toward a solution. That’s after applying state funds to the project, which also includes fixing Fifth Street.

Councilwoman Jacqueline Siciliano said the current grant cycle includes asking for funding for Seventh Street.

“We always ask for a bigger piece of the pie,” she said, noting the project to fix Fifth and Sixth streets initially included Seventh Street, but it had to be dropped because of insufficient funding.

— Gina G. Scala

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