By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Some of Sea Isle City’s sand dunes that have been eroded by storms may offer an opportunity for the town to widen a small number of beaches, a city official said Tuesday.
Sea Isle, Strathmere and Ocean City will all receive new sand to replenish their shoreline as part of a $32.5 million beach replenishment project expected to get underway this fall and be completed in time for the 2020 summer tourism season.
In Sea Isle, the project will include restoring the beaches with 250,000 cubic yards of fresh sand from the southern end of Whale Beach to 52nd Street and 510,000 cubic yards of sand from 68th Street to Townsends Inlet.
Parts of Sea Isle’s protective dune line have been sheared away by storms and churning surf in recent weeks, creating steep, cliff-like drop-offs at the end of pathways leading to the beach.
City Business Administrator George Savastano said Sea Isle intends to ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency overseeing the replenishment project, for approval to shift the dune line slightly inland to create wider beaches in a few areas.
Speaking to members of City Council during their meeting Tuesday, Savastano described it as a “slight redesign” of the project to create more room on the beaches for recreation.
Dunes are the front line of defense in protecting Sea Isle against coastal storms. Savastano stressed in his remarks to City Council that the dunes would remain robust throughout town and there would be no compromise in safety, even if the beaches are widened in certain spots.
In an interview after the meeting, he estimated that the beaches could be widened as much as 50 to 75 feet in front of the dunes.
Parts of the beach that might be widened include 88th to 92nd streets in Townsends Inlet and in the central part of town near John F. Kennedy Boulevard, about a block or two in each direction, Savastano said.
“It’s not uncommon to adjust the design, because beach replenishment is not an exact science. The beaches are dynamic. It all depends on how the beaches react to the environment,” Savastano said, mentioning the weather and the waves as key factors.
Sea Isle is looking to widen the beaches in just a few areas where the dunes have been sheared away. Instead of completely rebuilding the dune line to push the dunes farther out toward the ocean, new sand would be used to widen the beaches in those spots during the replenishment project, Savastano said.
Areas of the dune line that drop off sharply, particularly between 88th and 92nd streets, would be contoured to eliminate the jagged, cliff-like walls, Savastano noted.
“We would soften the edge so we didn’t have that cliff,” he said.
In the meantime, the city has placed yellow caution tape on some of the walkways leading to the beaches in Townsends Inlet to protect people from the drop-offs.
Overall, Sea Isle’s shoreline remains in very good condition, Savastano said. The city is still reaping the benefits of a $40 million beach replenishment project in 2015 and 2016 that added nearly 3 million cubic yards of new sand.
“The vast majority of our beach is in very good shape. We’ll be in great shape come next summer,” Savastano said in the interview.
The new $32.5 million beach replenishment project will be funded mostly by the Army Corps of Engineers and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Sea Isle, Strathmere and Ocean City will cover a portion of the cost. Savastano estimated Sea Isle’s share will be less than $2 million.
There are also options for additional sand as part of the Army Corp of Engineers beach replenishment contract. The options could be exercised depending on surveys and the condition of the beaches. The cost of the base contract and all of the contract options is $41.3 million, the agency announced last week.