Community leader says he’s outraged after bulldozer plows through dune

Heavy machinery on the beach in South Seaside Park in mid-July. (Image: Dominick Solazzo)

Heavy machinery on the beach in South Seaside Park in mid-July. (Image: Dominick Solazzo)

The leader of an Ocean County private community spared tidal flooding damage during Superstorm Sandy says he’s outraged after a portion of a protective dune was bulldozed Monday to accommodate beach replenishment equipment.

Heavy machinery was captured on video expanding an existing access at the entrance to Midway Beach from 14th Avenue on the border of Seaside Park and Berkeley Township’s South Seaside Park. Dunes extend to either side of the access.

The Army Corps of Engineers has been implementing its beach replenishment and dune building program along northern Ocean County.

Ed Voigt, chief of public affairs and legislative affairs at the Army Corps of Engineers Philadelphia division, tells WHYY that the dune was “slightly excavated” at one to three feet “just at the access point.”

He says the access point is specified in the beach replenishment and dune building plans to get the contractor’s beachfill equipment and materials on and off the beach along with machinery servicing and refueling.

But Dominick Solazzo, a community leader instrumental in maintaining the dune system, is calling foul.

He estimates that significantly more dune frontage was bulldozed, which he says now leaves the community vulnerable.

Midway Beach is famous for its dune system, with an average height of 27 feet and width of 150 feet, that build up over 40 years without any machinery. Community members created the expansive dune system organically through creative erosion control without any tax dollars.

Voigt says the Army Corps’ contractor will restore the access point and any other dune sections before finishing construction, adding that it will be done earlier if a major storm is forecast during the work period.

Solazzo says any emergency placement of sand in a gap “is not a suitable form of protection.”

“We are now at greater risk because of this project instead of being safer,” he said. “Piles of sand blow away in the wind. Dunes grow in the wind.”

Representative of the community, an enclave of mainly summer bungalows just north of Island Beach State Park, filed a lawsuit last year to prevent the dune building project.

A court brief submitted by Anthony Della Pelle, the condominium association’s attorney, indicated that the state has previously conceded that the existing dune system is “higher, larger, and stronger” than the state’s plan. But the lawsuit did not prevail.

State officials have said that the Midway Beach dunes would not be reduced in height and that it is necessary to have a uniform dune system stretching through municipalities.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal