Ship Bottom Seeks State Funds to Stop Bay Beach Erosion

May 10, 2017
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

The Ship Bottom Borough Council is looking at alternative ways to stop the bay beach erosion occurring just south of the boat ramp, and is bidding for grant money from the state Department of Environmental Protection to help make it happen.

Councilman Joe Valyo believes the answer is a natural or living shoreline, which 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, he said.

“It hasn’t been an accepted method by the state,“ he said, “until the last year when they said: we will give you money” to do this.

The area in question, Valyo said, is eroding into the bay and causing harm on shore. “We’ve tried rock and riprap to minimize it. It slows it down” but doesn’t stop it from occurring, the councilman said.

“It is cut in so deep that you can see the concave shape. You can see the permanent spot of dirt; it’s hard to repair,” he said, adding, “It has been accentuated by (Superstorm) Sandy.”

A natural or living shoreline will absorb wave energy, negating its ability to erode the coastline in that  area, he said. It also reduces nutrient runoff while maintaining the natural ecology of the area. Bulkheads perform in the exact opposite way of a natural shoreline, reflecting the wave’s energy and increasing the attrition; they are expensive to sustain and aren’t a long-lasting answer.

“While these approaches (bulkheads, sea walls) have proven to be successful at stabilizing shorelines when designed and constructed properly, they can also have a number of less desirable impacts on adjacent shorelines, and critical intertidal and near-shore habitats,” according to the February 2015 Living Shorelines Engineering Guidelines prepared for the DEP by Stevens Institute of Technology.

In Ship Bottom, there is the added issue of storm drains emptying into the area and Shore Avenue flooding so it overflows into the street, Valyo said.

The living shoreline method, while still relatively new in New Jersey, has been used nationwide for years. In 2012, Bill Shadel, then habitat restoration program director for the American Littoral Society, outlined the benefits of a living or natural shoreline in a presentation encouraging its use in New Jersey. Those benefits include natural shoreline protection, and restoration and enhancement of habitat for fish as well as providing a habitat for spawning and rearing.

Although not suitable for high-energy shoreline areas, natural shorelines last without detracting from the local ecosystem, according to the American Littoral Society.

“We have to do it for others to see (that it will work),” Valyo said, “and bring the idea here to the Island.”

— Gina G. Scala

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