In May 2019, sisters Nancy and Susan McLaughlin, of Sea Isle, looked at the damaged dunes in Townsends Inlet.

By Donald Wittkowski

Jagged mini-cliffs more than 10 feet high in some places have been carved out of the dunes along a three-block stretch of beach in Sea Isle City’s southern end.

“Actually, it looks like the Grand Canyon,” said Cathy Lipschultz, who lives on 88th Street in the Townsends Inlet section.

Her husband, Harry Lipschultz, said the damaged dunes are “reminiscent of D-Day,” a reference to the battle-scarred beaches in Normandy, France, where the Allied forces staged their epic invasion during World War II.

The dune line along 88th, 89th and 90th streets has literally been sheared away by the ocean, leaving cliff-like drop-offs that appear to be between 10 and 12 feet high in some sections. Kathy and Harry Lipschultz appeared before City Council on Saturday to urge Sea Isle officials to fix the dunes.

They were given assurances by a city official that the dunes will be restored. In the meantime, the dunes drop off so dramatically that it is impossible to walk onto the beach at 88th, 89th and 90th streets.

“It’s sad, but true. With the moons and tides, it happens,” Cathy Lipschultz said of the disappearing dunes.

The ocean has sliced away the dunes along a three-block stretch of beach between 88th and 90th streets, leaving sharp drop-offs.

City Business Administrator George Savastano blamed a series of coastal storms, including one on Mother’s Day, for washing away the sand.

“There’s not going to be a lot of beach. It’s Mother Nature,” Savastano said during the Council meeting, which was held on Saturday as part of the city’s annual Community Day celebration.

Savastano explained that the city plans to “harvest” sand near the water’s edge during low tide and use it to patch the dunes.

The dune and beach restoration work will be done this coming week as Sea Isle prepares for the arrival of Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start of the bustling summer tourism season.

“We’ll do what we can to get those beaches ready,” Savastano said.

The sand that is taken from the water’s edge to replenish the depleted dunes will be restored by the tides and the natural buildup of sandbars along the shoreline that occurs during the spring and summer, Savastano noted.

As a safety measure, the city continues to block off the beaches where the dunes were sliced away. “Danger” signs and barriers greet beaches-goers at 88th, 89th and 90th streets for now.

Beach-goers are greeted by “danger” signs and barriers that block access to the areas where the dunes are damaged.

Sisters Nancy and Susan McLaughlin, who are Sea Isle residents, were astonished to see the badly eroded dunes during a walk on the beach Saturday morning.

“That’s unbelievable,” Nancy McLaughlin exclaimed as she gazed up at the cliffs towering above her and her sister.

Savastano said the dunes in the southern end of Sea Isle adjacent to Townsends Inlet are sometimes sliced away because of the “dynamic” tidal action created by the channel.

Overall, though, Sea Isle’s beaches remain in “great shape,” Savastano emphasized.

“From a shore protection standpoint, Sea Isle is in great shape,” he said.

 Some of the beaches in the downtown area between 35th and 45th streets, though, have suffered erosion and appear a “little slim,” Savastano added.

 Sea Isle continues to benefit from a $40 million beach replenishment project, funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, that added nearly 3 million cubic yards of new sand in 2015 and 2016.

The Army Corps of Engineers is scheduled to return to Sea Isle this fall for another round of beach replenishment.

Overall, Sea Isle’s beaches remain in “great shape,” says City Business Administrator George Savastano.