By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Road construction projects, drainage improvements and stormwater pumping stations are among the big-ticket items in Sea Isle City’s five-year, $40.1 million capital plan approved Tuesday by City Council.
The capital plan reflects the city’s emphasis to protect low-lying neighborhoods from chronic flooding, Mayor Leonard Desiderio said.
“(The) largest amount within our five-year capital plan is dedicated to roads, drainage, and flood mitigation. Roughly 50 percent of planned funding is for projects throughout the city to continue to address this critical issue,” he told Council.
The plan calls for spending $13 million over the next five years for a series of pumping stations to protect the Landis Avenue corridor from floodwater seeping out of the bay.
Pumping stations 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. They have proved effective in Ocean City, Avalon and other shore communities vulnerable to flooding.
Sea Isle built its first pumping station in 2019 in the flood-prone area at the bay end of 38th Street and Sounds Avenue and will next shift its focus on sections of Landis Avenue that are hit by stormwater.
The first pumping station in the new capital plan is proposed in the area of 46th Street and Landis Avenue to the bay. The city is applying to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a $3 million to $4 million grant to help fund the project. FEMA is not expected to make a decision on the grant until the spring.
The city also has plans for a pumping station at 43rd Street and Landis to the bay. The project is in the design phase.
City Business Administrator George Savastano said Sea Isle and Cape May County are discussing the possibility of building new pumping stations in a partnership to share the cost of the projects. Those pumping stations would be in drainage areas controlled by the county.
As many as eight pumping stations are being considered along the Landis Avenue artery from 32nd Street to 72nd Street, Savastano said.
In combination with the new pumping stations, Sea Isle plans to spend $3.8 million over the next five years on road reconstruction and drainage improvements to help ease flooding on the island.
“The most important capital investment we can make is to address flood-mitigation concerns,” Savastano said in an interview after the Council meeting.
Sea Isle also plans to spruce up its beaches, bayfront and Promenade with new projects in the capital plan.
The plan is essentially a sweeping blueprint for the next five years for citywide improvements, including upgrades to the water and sewer system. Council will need to adopt funding ordinances in the future to finance individual projects.
“As Council knows, we revisit this plan each year as we review citywide priorities, assess progress to date, and re-establish priorities for the coming years,” Desiderio said.
A beach replenishment project is another major item in the capital plan. Sea Isle, Strathmere and the southern end of Ocean City are scheduled to have their beaches replenished in 2023 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The cost of the beachfill project is estimated at $30 million. The Army Corps will pay the lion’s share. Sea Isle’s capital plan includes $2 million in funding in 2023 for its share of the cost of the beach replenishment project.
“For 2023, nearly a third of the proposed capital plan budget is dedicated to beach replenishment,” Desiderio said. “Sea Isle is scheduled to be included in an upcoming beachfill by the Army Corps of Engineers, and we need to prepare for our cost share of the project.”
“We have a great agreement with the state and federal government that limits our contribution to about 12 percent of the overall cost, and it’s important that we plan appropriately for this. We don’t have a finalized schedule yet, but we expect that the Army Corps will be going out to bid in the spring of 2023 for a project to replenish our beaches,” he added.
Beach replenishment will help the tourist-dependent city to keep its shoreline in tip-top shape so it may continue attracting summer vacationers.
Besides the aesthetic value of having wide, powdery beaches, the city will also benefit from the replenishment project by having a bigger barrier of sand and dunes to protect homes, businesses, the Promenade and roads from the ocean’s storm surge.
Sea Isle is also planning to make cosmetic improvements to the Landis Avenue corridor downtown as well as the oceanfront Promenade, according to the capital plan.
New decorative lighting is proposed at a cost of $700,000 for Landis Avenue between 37th and 39th streets and between 43rd and 45th streets, Savastano said.
Decorative benches will be added to the Promenade and John F. Kennedy Boulevard at an estimated cost of $300,000. The benches originally were planned for 2024, but Council President Mary Tighe asked Savastano to move up the project to 2023 and he indicated that would be possible.