By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Sea Isle City officials are waiting to flip the switch to turn on a new pumping station that will help protect a flood-prone bayfront neighborhood.
After months of work by a city contractor, construction has been completed on the nearly $800,000 project at the bay end of 38th Street next to Sounds Avenue.
Before the pumping station is tested and put into operation, the electric company must complete the final hook-ups. Testing is expected to begin in the weeks ahead, city spokeswoman Katherine Custer said Friday.
The pumping station, the first one built in Sea Isle, is designed to intercept floodwater and channel it back into the bay much faster than it would normally take to drain off the streets after a coastal storm.
Long frustrated with the flooding that inundates their neighborhood, homeowners on 38th Street and the adjacent Sounds Avenue have been urging the city to install a pumping station for the past year.
“I’m just hopeful that it resolves the flooding problem for us. I personally don’t have anything negative to say about this. I think it’s only going to help us,” Lou Gryga, a summer resident of Sounds Avenue who has acted as a spokesman for the neighborhood, said in a recent interview.
The three pumps comprising the station are located under the street, completely out of view from homeowners. An 18-foot-deep hole was dug for the pumping station’s chamber and is now covered with asphalt.
The only thing that will be visible is an electrical panel mounted on a 7-foot-high platform that resembles a staircase. The panel will contain the controls for the pumping station.
“The mechanical parts on the platform are elevated above floodwaters. The staircase gives electric meter readers and other techs access to the platform,” Custer said.
Although the pumping station is regarded as a dramatic improvement, it will not stop flooding in major storms, City Business Administrator George Savastano has said.
Responding to complaints from residents, the city has already added a series of flood-control measures along 38th Street from Central Avenue to Sounds Avenue, including an approximately 4-foot-high rock wall that is designed to hold back stormwater surging out of the surrounding marshlands.
Primarily, the rock wall runs along both sides of 38th Street from Sounds Avenue heading toward Cini Street. It also extends to the dirt end of Sounds Avenue.
Last summer, 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 stormwater pipe leading to the bay.
The pumping station and other flood-control improvements to 38th Street and Sounds Avenue 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.
Savastano estimated that perhaps as many as half a dozen other pumping stations may be built throughout Sea Isle in flood-prone neighborhoods.