Timing of West 28th Street Bulkhead Installation Unknown

Oct 10, 2018
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

County engineering officials are still waiting for a permit that will allow them to replace the berm at the end of Central Avenue and West 28th Street in Ship Bottom in one of the most flood-prone areas on Long Beach Island with a bulkhead. John Ernst, Ocean County engineer, said last week the application for the work was submitted to the state Department of Environmental Protection over the course of the summer. State officials, he said, asked for some modifications. He and his team have addressed those issues and are now waiting. Residents living within 200 feet of the area in question have been notified of the pending project, according to Ernst.

Caryn Shinske, a public information officer for the DEP, said this week the permit is in the public comment period, which ends Oct. 18. The state agency has 15 days to determine whether the application is complete or incomplete for review.

“If the application is determined to be complete, the DEP will have 60 calendar days from the end of the public comment period to make a decision on the application,” she said. “If the application is deemed incomplete for review based on issues raised during the public comment period, the DEP will notify the applicant and request more information.”

Earlier this year, the DEP committed to approving a bulkhead application to replace the berm at the end of West 28th Street and Central Avenue. Mayor William Huelsenbeck made the announcement at the March borough council meeting after a month of back-to-back nor’easters walloped the gateway community, forcing some residents indoors for days until the water receded enough for them to leave without risk. The DEP had agreed in 2016 that the berm should be replaced with a bulkhead, but word didn’t reach the borough until last fall. Huelsenbeck said they had to tell the county.

The proposed work is the second step in mitigating flood waters in the borough. Flooding is caused by water that comes in more quickly than it recedes, whether it is storm-related or sunny-day flooding. Borough officials addressed the issue by installing tie valves, which causes all the water to flow in only one direction. Water can become trapped in the pipes for a period of time before being flushed out.

The county was expected to take a look at the tie valves as part of the project, which includes replacing the berm with a bulkhead. Ernst has said part of the issue is that sea level is zero elevation and the area in question is only ½ to a little more than 1 foot in elevation.

“You can still expect some flooding,” he said, noting how close the roadway is to the bay in the flood-prone area.

Borough residents coming before council have been hearing the same thing from the mayor.

“One thing isn’t going to work,” Huelsenbeck has said. “We’re blitzing it the best way we can.”

Before 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.

Without the crown raising, the pump would constantly siphon water, Ernst has said.

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

More recently, the borough council set in motion a sequence of measures to help ease flooding conditions west of Long Beach Boulevard. The ordinances regulate building heights, lot elevation and drainage. The borough also undertook replacing the bulkhead at the end of West 28th Street this summer and requiring all bulkheads, new or replaced, to be 5 feet in height going forward.

Additionally, state transportation officials have agreed to include plans for a new drainage system comprised of underground gravity flow pipes to be installed along Eighth and Ninth streets from Long Beach Boulevard to the bay. In doing so, they nixed a pump station as part of the $312 million expansion and rehabilitation of the Causeway. In 2016, state transportation officials said the new system would direct runoff to two new, separate outfall locations, providing operational redundancy. If one location is backed up or malfunctions in any way, state officials have said, it would not cause the remaining outfall to flood. The proposed system would cost less to build and maintain, according to transportation officials.

— Gina G. Scala


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