By Donald Wittkowski
Sea Isle City can thank Mother Nature for solving a manmade problem that left some of the beaches dotted with water-filled gullies last summer.
A beach restoration project completed in 2016 replenished the town’s entire shorefront with nearly 3 million cubic yards of deep, powdery sand.
But it also created a “huge hump of sand” that ran for miles along the coastline and trapped the ocean, creating pools of water on the beaches in the process, City Business Administrator George Savastano explained.
However, Savastano said during the City Council meeting on Feb. 14 that the gullies have disappeared this year due to the natural regrading of the shoreline by the ocean.
“We were hopeful that Mother Nature would take her course. It looks like that’s the case,” he told Council.
The city’s Public Works Department will monitor the beaches to make sure the pools of water don’t return, but for the moment, “they’ve kind of gone away,” Savastano said.
Last summer, maintenance crews had to regrade the beaches every morning. The work included cutting trenches into the sand to channel the pools of water back into the ocean.
In some spots, sunbathers were inconvenienced by having to walk around the gullies to get to their favorite beaches. The problem prompted some local residents to complain directly to City Council during its meetings.
With the gullies now gone, city officials are hopeful that access to the beaches will be easier this summer. Sea Isle will also undertake other measures to improve beach access. They include clearing the beach entryways and adding new gravel where needed.
The city will also install slip-resistant, polyester pathways – known as “Mobi-Mats” – at each of the Americans With Disabilities-compliant entryways to help beachgoers traverse the sand.
In the last two years, Sea Isle’s entire 4.5-mile shoreline was replenished by a $40 million beach restoration project funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Altogether, 2.9 million cubic yards of sand were added. In some cases, badly eroded beaches that were only about 50 feet wide have grown to 300 feet wide.
Savastano said similar problems with gullies of water forming in the sand also occurred during beach replenishment projects at other towns on the Jersey Shore.
He became familiar with the dynamics of the shifting shoreline when he oversaw beach replenishment projects in Cape May and Ocean City during the early 1990s while formerly working as an engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers.