By Maddy Vitale
Chuck Walsh loves living on the beach at 87th Street in Sea Isle City. He and his wife Maureen purchased the property in 2006 and moved down full time five years ago.
One of his morning rituals is walking his dog Sandy on the beach. But navigating the pristine, wide beaches in his hometown is becoming more difficult since two recent nor’easters left their mark on the sands.
Churning seas, high tides and winds caused what officials call moderate erosion on beaches from about 85th Street to 89th Street. To a beachgoer, the diminished sands look more like mini-cliffs.
“You can’t even get down there at 89th Street,” Walsh explained.
Bridget Eich-Miller, Walsh’s daughter, took a stroll with her dad and her two children Jason, 6, and Molly, 4, to check out the beach Sunday afternoon.
The family wasn’t quite sure if they could get onto the beach, since there was yellow caution tape placed at the beach walkway entrance by city officials.
“He asked me if we could get on the beach,” Eich-Miller, who lives on 84th Street said referring to her son.
While the family is used to dealing with coastal storms, this winter’s weather has wreaked havoc on the sands.
“It’s been going on for a few months now,” Walsh said of the erosion. “And it has gotten worse over the last storms, slowly, but surely. It just doesn’t seem to stop. It’s just a shame.”
Sea Isle City’s Office of Emergency Management Deputy Director Michael Jargowsky said it is normal to lose sand, but not to this extent.
“There is generally a slope to the beaches and ideally, that is the profile you want to keep. But when you see the jagged cliff-like beach, you have lost a lot of sand,” he said.
Jargowsky said the storms really chipped away at some of the beaches – especially the March 8 nor’easter. Specifically, in the sections from 85th Street down.
The worst area for erosion was at 89th Street.
“A big chunk of beach was taken from there,” Jargowsky said. “Last time I looked, there were jagged cliffs, because of the consecutive high tides.”
Red caution tape warned people not to step onto the beaches at 89th Street. There was about a nine-foot drop instead of the normal slope to the beach. Seawaters pooled just feet from the “jagged cliffs.”
Sea Isle City’s beaches were replenished from end-to-end two times in recent years, with nearly 3 million cubic yards of new sand unloaded to make the beaches wider and thicker. It was a $40 million project funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Walsh said he doubts the Army Corps of Engineers will come back any time soon.
Jargowsky echoed the homeowner’s sentiment.
“They have done it twice and usually they do it every 10 years. It is in the federal government’s hands right now,” Jargowsky said. “Everyone wants their beaches replenished. It is hard to get to all of them.”
Jargowsky said the Office of Emergency Management, police, fire and city officials, are in constant contact when monitoring storms.
“We always have signage ready for detours and we have our high-water vehicles ready to go,” he remarked. “There is a lot of communication when we are looking for what a storm is going to do.”
Currently, officials are watching a storm predicted for the area Monday which is calling for snow and rain, with the potential for minor tidal flooding.
“If it gets worse and if there is a potential for really high tides, we notify people,” Jargowsky said. “We have been through this before and people know the drill.”
When it comes down to it, living at the Jersey Shore has many benefits, but there are also issues such as erosion and flooding that come with the territory.
“It is what we all deal with,” Jargowsky said. “It’s life at the shore.”