By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Sea Isle City’s beaches are ready for their big touch-up.
Although the machinery is idle now, the excavators, bulldozers and dump trucks mobilized on the beach on 40th Street will soon roar to life as work gets underway on a project that will add more than 750,000 cubic yards of new sand to Sea Isle’s storm-eroded shoreline.
“It is definitely noticeable,” Liz Latimer, a Philadelphia resident who was lounging on the beach Saturday along with 10 of her friends, said of the heavy construction equipment parked just a few yards away behind yellow caution tape.
After a slight delay in getting started, the beach replenishment project is scheduled to begin July 1 with the pumping of sand on the 40th Street beach, City Business Administrator George Savastano said.
Most of the replenishment work involves widening the beaches. However, in some areas the dunes, beach access points and sand fencing will be repaired, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency overseeing the project.
Herman Rodriguez, a resident of Newark, Del., who was visiting Sea Isle on Saturday for the first time this summer, said he is looking forward to the wider beaches that will be created by the replenishment project.
“Usually, the beaches in New Jersey are much wider. You can walk a mile on them,” said Rodriguez, who was joined by his wife, Brenda.
The new sand pumped in for the replenishment project will give the beaches and some parts of the dunes a fresh look for the summer vacation season, including making them bigger.
Sea Isle’s beach replenishment project will be broken into two parts. Plans call for 510,000 cubic yards of sand to be deposited on the beaches from about 74th Street to 93rd Street in Townsends Inlet. Another 250,000 cubic yards of sand will touch up the beaches from around 28th Street to 52nd Street in the center of town.
Savastano said the first part of the project will be done between 28th and 52nd streets, taking about two or three weeks to finish.
Next up will be the beaches between 74th and 93rd streets in the south end of Sea Isle. Savastano said it will take four to five weeks to finish that stretch of beach.
The delay in getting the project started means that the contractor will be out on the beaches well into the summer tourism season. However, restrictions will be in place to minimize any conflicts between the beachgoers and the network of pipes and heavy equipment used by the contractor, Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co.
No more than 1,000 feet of the beach will be closed at any one time while the work is being done. Sand will be dredged offshore and then pumped onto the beaches through a network of massive pipes. The contractor will build sand mounds over the pipes so that beachgoers can have access to the ocean, Savastano said.
Sea Isle suffered significant beach erosion in some spots during a lingering coastal storm that unleashed a series of unusually high tides over a four-day period in October 2019.
During the storm, huge chunks of sand were sliced away from the dunes, leaving cliff-like walls in some areas. Some beaches appeared bare – stripped of their powdery top layer of sand. Wooden dune fencing was torn to shreds.
Even before the October storm, beaches and dunes in Townsends Inlet between 88th and 93nd streets had suffered significant erosion. The sand dunes, in particular, were sheared away by the churning surf, creating jagged cliffs more than 10 feet high.
The replenishment project will restore the eroded beaches and dunes. Sea Isle is part of a $32.5 million beach replenishment project that also includes Strathmere and Ocean City. There are options in the contract for even more sand if needed, which could increase the cost of the project to $41.3 million.
The project will be funded mostly by the Army Corps of Engineers and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The three towns will each kick in a smaller share. Sea Isle’s contribution is expected to be less than $2 million, Savastano said.
Once the work gets underway, Sea Isle and the Army Corps of Engineers plan to provide regular updates on the project to the public.
Information will be posted on the Army of Corps of Engineers’ website on a daily basis to notify beachgoers of any closures. The website is https://www.nap.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Great-Egg-Harbor-Inlet-to-Townsends-Inlet/.