Shrinking Islands

May 02, 2018

To the Editor:

Over the years, the back bay islands, which ought to shield Long Beach Island from coastal storm surge damage, have eroded to the point they provide little, if any, protection. Receding flood waters leave residual mud on bayside streets with increasing frequency.

The Marshelder Islands, just west of North Beach Haven, are now flooded during every high tide, and the western Marshelder Island has lost over 60 feet of its southern tip due to erosion. Recent nor’easter coastal storm surge waves passed over the islands without resistance, destructively crashing on Long Beach Island bulkheads.

The Marshelder Islands are part of the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, which raises the question of whether the eroding refuge islands will be replenished to restore protection to Long Beach Island or left to their own demise due the Forsythe forever-wild policy. This policy was designed to indefinitely protect essential habitats and ought not be used as a vehicle to their destruction.

On Feb. 18, an advocacy letter was sent to Ryan Zinke, secretary of the Department of the Interior. In it concerns were raised regarding the deleterious effect to Long Beach Island following erosion of the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge islands, and the resultant frequency and destructiveness of coastal storm-surging bay waters. Additional concerns were raised regarding the lack of public information regarding the condition of the islands and to seek clarification regarding the department’s public policy on restoration of the eroding islands that protect Long Beach Island.

It is two months later and there is still no response from the secretary regarding these essential issues to both the environment and public safety. I have subsequently reached out to Sen. Cory Booker’s office to obtain assistance to procure a response from Secretary Zinke.

The loss of protection from the eroding islands may be addressed in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New Jersey Back Bay Coastal Storm Risk Management’s three-year study cosponsored by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The study, now in its second year, addresses the continued flood risk and potential for risk management solutions to address sea level rise, and conducts hydrodynamic modeling and economic analysis to formulate a plan for Barnegat Bay and Long Beach Island. It is unknown at this time if our bay islands’ erosion issue is included in the Army Corps study.

However, replenishment of the bay islands is an essential step toward maintaining quality of life, protection of property and continued enjoyment of Long Beach Island, and it should be immediately studied.

I repeat my call to the Department of the Interior to address my questions. Ignoring these issues will lead to needlessly disastrous results.

Peter E. Trainor

North Beach Haven


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