By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Sea Isle City approved a $3.2 million funding package Tuesday to pay for its share of a beach replenishment project that will restore parts of its eroded shoreline with 640,000 cubic yards of fresh sand.
Sea Isle is part of a $33.7 million project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that will include replenishing the storm-damaged beaches and dunes in the southern end of Ocean City and Strathmere.
Starting this fall and continuing through next spring, a total of about 1.3 million cubic yards of new sand will be dredged from “borrow sites” offshore and pumped through massive pipes onto the beaches in each town at the following locations:
- 257,000 cubic yards of sand in the south end of Ocean City from about 45th Street to 59th Street.
- 456,000 cubic yards in Strathmere from Corson’s Inlet to about Taylor Avenue.
- 252,000 cubic yards in central Sea Isle from about 29th Street to 53rd Street.
- 388,000 cubic yards in the south end of Sea Isle from about 73rd Street to Townsends Inlet.
Beach replenishment projects are primarily funded by the federal government through the Army Corps of Engineers. Under the funding formula, the federal government kicks in 65 percent of the cost, while the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the towns that are getting their beaches replenished subdivide the remaining 35 percent.
City Council approved a $3.2 million bond ordinance at a meeting Tuesday to pay for Sea Isle’s share of the project. Originally, Sea Isle estimated that its share would cost $2 million, but that was before a series of storms this fall caused even more beach and dune damage.
Great Lakes Dredging & Dock Co., the project’s contractor, is scheduled to start pumping sand in Ocean City at the end of November. After Ocean City, the replenishment project will move to Strathmere and then proceed south to Sea Isle next March or April. The project will be completed when work in Sea Isle wraps up in mid-May, according to the schedule.
Mayor Leonard Desiderio said he would prefer for Sea Isle to go last among the three towns because the replenishment work in Sea Isle will get underway after the normally stormy winter season at the shore.
“I expected and wanted to go last,” he said in an interview after the City Council meeting.
Barring delays, Sea Isle’s replenished beaches will be ready just in time for the start of the Memorial Day weekend kickoff to the summer tourism season, Desiderio pointed out.
“There can’t be any delays for all of this to work,” he said of the timing of the project.
Replenishment projects help the tourist-dependent shore communities keep their beaches in tip-top shape so they may continue attracting summer vacationers.
Besides the aesthetic value of having wide, powdery beaches, the towns will also benefit from the restoration project by having a bigger barrier of sand dunes to protect homes, businesses and roads from the ocean’s storm surge.
“This project is about maintaining the dune and beach system, which functions to absorb and reduce impacts during storm events. Having the dune in place fronted by a berm reduces the risk for infrastructure, which can include homes, businesses, roads/promenades, and utility lines,” Army Corps spokesman Steve Rochette explained of the benefits of the project.
All three towns have experienced significant beach and dune erosion going back to last winter and the fall of 2022. In some spots the dunes have been carved away by the stormy weather, leaving steep sand cliffs about to 10 to 20 feet high in their place.
In Sea Isle, the most severe erosion has occurred in the southern tip of the island in the Townsends Inlet section, as well as the beaches and dunes in the midsection of town.