The Army Corps of Engineers is set to begin replenishing beaches and building protective dunes in northern Ocean County next month.
But one community lauded for its extensive dune system that saved it from Superstorm Sandy’s floodwaters isn’t yet included in the work schedule.
The state Department of Environment Protection announced last week that the South Seaside Park section of Berkeley Township joins Bay Head and Point Pleasant Beach as municipalities where officials must still obtain access easements prior to beginning the project.
Officials haven’t yet announced if the holdouts will face eminent domain actions, or the taking of property necessary to accommodate the project.
In Midway Beach, a private community within South Seaside Park, the dunes have grown significantly since Sandy thanks to stewardship and innovative strategies, like the use of Christmas trees to trap sand, said Dominick Solazzo, 44, the resident beach manager.
Solazzo, the founder of the non-profit environmental conservation organization Shifting Sands, recently released an aerial drone video that depicts the dune system.
One portion shows a side-by-side comparison of the one year growth between February 2016 and 2017.
Growing naturally vs. man-made
Over the course of decades, community volunteers have built up their expansive dune system organically through creative erosion control without any tax dollars.
The protective barrier, also grown without any mechanical equipment, spared the community of damage during Superstorm Sandy.
In a 2013 National Geographic article, Stewart Farrell, director of the Stockton University’s Coastal Research Center, said the Midway Beach system represents the “the most dynamic ‘bootstrap’ dune project on the coast.”
“There’s no need for bulldozers or shovels when the wind does the work of building the dune,” he added in the article.
The Coastal Research Center’s 2005 New Jersey Beach Profile Network Annual Report found that the dune at the community’s 6th Lane beach grew gradually over time.
“Initially there was no dune, just a bare sand hill around 6 feet lower than the present crest elevation. The dune width as of November 2004 had reached 130 feet between the landward fence and seaward toe with a maximum crest elevation of 22.3 feet NGVD,” the report said.
Its 2013 report found that the dune “was wide and high enough to be an island of low damage in an otherwise devastated region.” Two years later, the 2015 report found that sand accumulated at the community’s 6th Lane dune “at the highest rate for any northern Ocean County profile.”
That year, the dune reached around 25 feet high, while the beach was measured at nearly 200 feet wide.
It’s unknown when beach replenishment and dune building will begin
In northern Ocean County, offshore pumping will supply some 11 million cubic yards of sand along 14-miles of coastline to build dunes 22 feet above sea level and 100 to 300 foot wide beaches 8.5 feet above sea level for most of the project area.
In a January email, Bob Considine of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection confirmed Midway Beach’s inclusion.
When asked about the project’s necessity, he said it will provide the community with a stronger protective dune system.
“This project will serve not to replace the existing dunes, but to complement and further strengthen them and, of course, tie into the rest of the project and lengthen the beach,” he said.
Considine added that even if they’re around the same height in certain areas of the community, the engineered dunes will be substantially wider than the existing dunes.
“Dunes are not only just a function of height, but the volume of sand and how it will stand up to storm events,” he said, adding that the dunes will be maintained for 50 years after construction.
But as of mid-March, outstanding easements still exist in South Seaside Park, and their status is unknown.
A call to a Midway Beach representative requesting comment whether the private community, which includes the majority of oceanfront area in the township, has signed easements was not immediately returned.
But if Facebook commenters called the shots, the Army Corps of Engineers wouldn’t be coming to the community.
“Don’t let the [Army Corps] touch your dunes,” wrote George Browne under the Shifting Sands dune video.
Kari Jermansen Martin wrote that she fears “all this great restoration will be ruined by the work by the Army Corps.”