By Donald Wittkowski
Sea Isle City is moving forward with plans for a new pumping station that will clear storm water off the streets in a neighborhood of upscale bayfront homes frequently swamped by flooding.
City Council has awarded a $789,580 contract for the pumping station, which will be built at the bay end of 38th Street, just off Sounds Avenue, Sea Isle officials previously said.
Long frustrated with the flooding that inundates their neighborhood, homeowners are relieved to hear that the project will get underway after a year of planning and discussion.
“I don’t know of anyone who isn’t happy with it,” said Lou Gryga, a resident of Sounds Avenue who has acted as a spokesman for the neighborhood.
City officials have not yet announced when construction will start on the project. The pumping station will be the first one ever built in Sea Isle.
“It’s going to be a big help to us,” Gryga said in an interview Monday.
Council President Jack Gibson noted that homeowners on 38th Street and Sounds Avenue have made it clear to city officials just how important the pumping project is to the neighborhood.
“The people are anxious, and everybody is aware of that. Everyone wants to get started,” Gibson said Monday.
The pumping station and other anti-flooding improvements to 38th Street have broader implications. The neighborhood will serve as an example of how city officials intend to protect the entire low-lying barrier island from coastal storms in decades to come.
The neighborhood of 38th Street and Sounds Avenue is just one of the flood-prone areas that city officials are addressing. Sea Isle is in the midst of a comprehensive flood-control study to find ways to protect the town from coastal storms, including the construction of road, drainage and pumping projects. The study is expected to be completed by the end of August, city spokeswoman Katherine Custer said.
Responding to complaints from residents, the city has added a series of flood-fighting measures along 38th Street from Central Avenue to Sounds Avenue, including a 4-foot-high rock wall that serves as the first line of defense to hold back storm waters surging out of the surrounding marshlands.
In June, the city completed the repaving of 38th Street from Central Avenue to Sounds Avenue. The street was regraded and repaved to even out its undulating surface caused by the construction of a new storm water pipe leading to the bay.
The new pumping station, meanwhile, is designed to intercept storm water and channel it back into the bay to clear the streets of flooding, Gibson explained.
“It will solve most of the rainfall, and it will solve some of the tidal effect,” Gibson said of the different types of flooding.
He noted that the project will actually include three pumps. The first pump is designed to handle flooding from a normal storm. The second would be used during more serious flooding. The third pump would help with severe storms, Gibson said.
Gibson met with a dozen neighbors of 38th Street and Sounds Avenue in June to discuss the project. Although the pumping station is regarded as a dramatic improvement, it will not stop flooding in a major storm, such as the powerful nor’easter, named Jonas, that pummeled the Jersey Shore in January 2016, he told the neighbors.
Gryga said the neighbors are pleased that city officials fulfilled their promise to build the pumping station.
“It’s all good. It really is,” he said. “They did all the things they said they would.”
Residents of 38th Street and Sounds Avenue first appeared before City Council last year to complain about the flooding. At that time, they suspected the flooding was exacerbated by a new city storm water pipe that ends in the bay at 38th Street. They said the pipe has simply been overwhelmed, allowing flooding to inundate the streets.
The homeowners believe the new pipe is overtaxed because it handles storm water not only from 38th Street, but also from 39th and 40th streets.
Gibson told the neighbors in June that the new pumping station will help reduce any possible problems stemming from the pipeline, as well as flooding in general.
Some homeowners are slightly worried about the noise the pumping station may make, but those concerns are outweighed by the overall benefit of the project, Gryga said.
Gryga expressed more serious concerns about water that he said has been escaping from an underground chamber through a manhole-like cover on 38th Street. He said the city must seal the cover to prevent the water from gushing out and flooding the surrounding streets.
“That chamber is huge. It fills up and pushes water up the street,” he said. “Right now, it’s not a sealed cover.”