Trying to Answer Questions on the Beachfill Saga, and Can We Buy an Offshore Wind?

Beach Happenings and Jetty Clam Jam Preview Video Round Out the Bill
By JON COEN | Sep 28, 2016
Photo by: Kali Emery It wasn’t exactly clean and offshore, but the last storm at least gave us some fun lefts. Pat ‘Surfcat’ Emery demonstrates the backside floater last Sunday.
2016 Clam Jam video

Clam Jam X Promo from Darn Swell Media on Vimeo.

(Video by: Darn Swell Media)

I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to take stock of your friends is to have car problems.

For the most part, LBI and the mainland is small town living. So when your car winds up in the shop, everyone knows it. And that’s OK.

Of course you always have those friends who are going to rib you a little.

“Hey, saw your Jeep over at Odell’s again. You still don’t know how to use a clutch?”

There are times that I have had my old trucks break down right on 72, once on the shoulder on Cedar Bonnet Island. If your phone starts blowing up, you know you make better choices in friends than vehicles.

Then there are the times when your car winds up sitting at Woody’s or Manahawkin Shell for an extended period of time. Maybe it’s three weeks or a month. And it’s clear that you need a new transmission or they have to take the whole engine apart to get to the head gasket. And you have to decide if your gonna drop a month’s salary or just sell the damn thing. And your best friends will approach you with condolences, a hand on the shoulder, without you having to even explain.

“It’s all gonna be OK, man ...”

MORE SAND SITUATION: Surprise, surprise. We’re still talking about beach replenishment.

I know, I know. Summer is long gone. By now we’d all hoped the beach replenishment would be finished, we’d have had our big storm to bring the profiles back to normal, and our engineered dunes would be in place to bolster us for winter storms. And as much as we appreciate the artificial coastal fortitude, we’re all pretty ready to see the fill operation pull up anchor for some other stretch of coast. For all the federal money Great Lakes Dredge and Docks has made here, those boys should all be driving shiny new whips when they finally head west over the bridge.

And just when you thought we were all good to go, here comes the big Coastal Research Amphibious Buggy, aka the CRAB, aka the Imperial Walkers from “The Empire Strikes Back,” poking around Holgate and Ship Bottom.

These are the harbingers of death for surf breaks, so understandably, surfers aren’t all that thrilled to see them. Aside from folks with acute real estate and construction interests who rarely put their feet in the sand, no one is all that thrilled to see them.

Right now, this is what we know: The project will continue pumping through Brant Beach. There is federal money to repump Ship Bottom. There may or may not be federal money to do repair work down in Holgate.

One thing I hear over and over again is this project is somehow just plain “stupid,” that it lacks common sense, that we are simply throwing money into the ocean. I assure you, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers doesn’t think that all that sand is going to stay there.

If you stood on the beach in Harvey Cedars a day after Sandy, seeing those massive engineered dunes completely flattened, it would appear that all that money spent was a waste. However, all the houses were standing and there was no new inlet allowing waves to roll across the bay and start battering the mainland. So, maybe it wasn’t all in vain? No doubt, though, much of the way things get done do seem counterintuitive and simply lacking common sense. And I think in the next few weeks, we’re going to see if there’s an element of common sense used.

Case in point: Ship Bottom is up for another round of sand. Just to review history, most of the natural dunes in the borough did pretty well during Sandy. When there was overwash, it was likely due to the weak points from the old beach buggy access points. To be fair, Ship Bottom benefited from pre-Sandy projects in Surf City and Brant Beach. Does anyone else remember when we used to have jetties in Ship Bottom?

But the federal Sandy repair money was there, so Ship Bottom was slated to get 800,000 cubic yards of replenishment sand in the spring of 2015. However, in the two years since the post-Sandy beach survey to when the project started, Ship Bottom had accrued all this sand from the natural return flow.

Essentially, the beach didn’t need nearly as much as the Army Corps of Engineers thought. The science guys didn’t come look at the beach to see what kind of condition it was in, but the regular folks about town could see how much sand was there. This is why the Army Corps gets a bad rap. Once the contract had been arranged, they couldn’t essentially ask the contractor for less sand because they had already contracted a price. So just to reiterate, they paid for and got more sand than anyone ever needed. They also tried some experimental slopes at 1:20 instead of the traditional 1:10. Fortunately, Ship Bottom was the quickest beach to ever rebound from a project. We had a sandbar and waves immediately.

Now Ship Bottom has been earmarked for more federal funds to “repair” the damages done by last year’s winter storms. I’d invite anyone – whether you are a coastal engineer, physical therapist, pancake flipper or exotic dancer – to take a look at Ship Bottom and see if that beach looks unhealthy.

There are spots where the dune fence is 40 yards from the waterline in Surf City, yet there’s enough room in Ship Bottom to hold a Springsteen concert, or a giant kite festival (which is next week, actually).

So we’re going to see if the Army Corps is going to use common sense here. Now keep in mind this is a government agency, some of which are run with less efficiency than a kickball game during a prison break. So let’s not rake them over the coals. They have policies and procedures that may take precedence over common sense.

Are they just going to extend the only beach on LBI that doesn’t need it? If they do, I think they should maybe just start pumping Barnegat Light and see if we can just incorporate a new borough called Barnegat Light Heights and start throwing up condos. I may get my real estate license. Or perhaps they will use this money and sand wisely, maintaining something of a natural slope in Ship Bottom, while setting the sand up to fill needed areas in Surf City. Guess we have to see if common sense has a say.

As for Holgate, well, I hope the Army Corps knows just how fast that sand was going to start sucking south. They may have wanted to jump on their public relations with that one. Every surfer, fisherman and shell collector on LBI could tell you that the littoral drift there is like the Mississippi on steroids. Hurricane Hermine dissipated all that sand before they could even plant the dune grass.

If you’re in the “that was a waste of money” camp, that would seem to be the case. But at least recognize that the Army Corps wanted to taper that design well past the Wooden Jetty. However, U.S. Fish and Wildlife wouldn’t let them pump into the Forsythe Refuge, a situation you can’t really blame the Corps for. Plus, Hermine would have left Holgate vulnerable going into winter.

The fill situation created something of a vacuum that sucked all the sand southward. Perhaps now that the void is filled, the sand will stay in place longer. I’m not sure myself. But even though the CRAB has been poking around that special beach, the federal money may not be there to re pump. Perhaps the town has some plan of its own.

So if the project does come back to repair Holgate, it would mean we lose that epic surf spot again. But Hermine was like a moderate nor’easter. One real winter storm will set that sand straight in a day.

SURF AND STUFF: So there’s this phenomenon called an offshore wind. It’s a rare thing here in New Jersey where the wind actually blows out of the west. I don’t think we’ve seen that all month. Come to think of it, we didn’t see it most of September or October last year either.

There’s been a decent amount of energy in the water, but we can’t buy an offshore wind lately. This weekend saw a combination of swell from Tropical Storm Karl and some northerly wind chop. I didn’t see anyone in the water on Saturday, but there were definitely a few sections in all that wind, particularly the rights against the grain. The wind laid down Sunday afternoon and there were enough clean faces for the South End to be worth it with a few peeling lines. It still wasn’t particularly clean, but beggars of offshore winds can’t be choosers.

We’re about to have some more waves and weather for late week, and again, the wind may not go offshore until the surf is on its way down. Some of the models are calling for a real spike in size on Thursday, but I’m not sure we’re even going to see head high surf.

By this time of year, I’d hope we’d be looking at a classic nor’easter followed by northwest winds, or a decent south swell, but that’s just not happening for us. Instead, we need to keep all eyes on this latest tropical wave by the equator. Hurricane season may be far from over, as we’re watching what could become Tropical Storm or even Hurricane Mathew. This storm is in kind of a weird spot, south of the Caribbean. To this point, it hasn’t gotten up a whole lot of organization either, which makes it tough to forecast a track, but it could prove to be a wavemaker for us in the long term.

KEEPING IN THE LOOP: Oysters are probably the hippest shellfish going right now, and this Friday is the Shellfish Soiree at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences sponsored by Bay Avenue Plant Company. Chefs from The Arlington, Bistro 14 and The Old Causeway Steak & Oyster House will prepare shellfish in different, creative ways while the oyster farmers from Parson’s Seafood and 40 North Oysters lead conversations about the bringing back native oyster populations.

Join the Island Surf and Sail crew this Sunday night at the shop for a viewing of “The Fourth Phase,” the new Travis Rice snow film, which is far beyond a standard snowboard film. ISS is our local retailer for Lib Tech snowboards, surfboards and skateboards and happens to be Rice’s board sponsor. Sometimes groundbreaking films are more fun to watch with a crowd of rowdies. There will be beers.

This weekend is Chowderfest, which is going to be a very make or break weekend for area businesses after the event went down to Davey Jones’ locker in 2015. As of now, we’re looking at 70 degrees with a mix of sun and clouds, which, if you check with the Farmer’s Almanac, is ideal chowder-slurping weather. And for those of us who are still here, something very special happens.

Blink blink, wink wink.

Jetty is prepping some nostalgia for the 2016 Clam Jam at Hudson Avenue in Harvey Cedars. The first potential date for the event would be Oct. 8 or 9. If we don’t get a decent swell, Jetty reserves the right to hold it on a weekday in November. Come out to The Old Causeway Steak & Oyster House on Wednesday, Sept. 28 for the team selection party. As always, competitors are encouraged to contact their partners in advance of the contest. Not only does it help with organization, meeting your teammate from another generation is the point of the whole thing, knucklehead.

The New Jersey Surfing Hall of Fame is already preparing for its new inductions next June. And since anything of the nature of choosing one person over another usually winds up taking a whole lot of heat, they are holding open meetings to clear up some misconceptions and motivate people to nominate locals in their region for consideration.

Let me rephrase that in 2016 terms. When you pick folks subjectively to celebrate their accomplishments, someone is going to be sore and bitch about it on social media. So those who might have a problem with the way things are done may want to go listen and have a face-to-face conversation instead of creating a Facebook storm. The meeting for the LBI region is Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. at the Tuckerton Seaport. The board will meet prior, at 6 p.m.  Each district (LBI is its own) has three shoreline directors to serve as conduit for inducting members. Randy Townsend and Dave Werner are serving as two of the directors, but the third slot is open if anyone is interested. It doesn’t require a lot of time and allows some great surf community interaction. Get the word out.

It’s looking like a decent weekend on our little sandbar. Embrace the chaos, because things are going to get kind of quiet around here, and remain that way for the next eight months.


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