Most Jersey Shore beaches are in good shape as summer starts, but serious erosion a problem in spots

Even in shore towns where erosion has not reached crisis levels, the shoreline is somewhat narrower this year.

beach with an eroded dune

A severely eroded section of sand dune lines the beach in North Wildwood N.J., Jan. 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

Most of New Jersey’s beaches will start the summer in decent shape after a winter of storms, but significant erosion remains a problem in several spots.

Even in shore towns where erosion has not reached crisis levels, the shoreline is somewhat narrower this year. On some beaches where there could be less room for everyone, local officials are banning tents, cabanas and other sheltering devices that take up an inordinate amount of space.

And swimmers should watch out for possible strong rip currents this summer, as officials warn that eroded sand has gathered offshore in several sandbars along the coast. Those sandbars can create a powerful, narrow channels of water flowing away from the beach that can quickly sweep even the strongest swimmer out beyond the breakers.

Jon Miller, a coastal processes expert at Stevens Institute of Technology, said a series of winter nor’easters caused significant erosion in Atlantic City, where casino officials are begging for an emergency beach replenishment program, and in North Wildwood, which will receive one in the coming weeks.

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“While many beaches remain healthy and in great shape heading into the summer tourism season thanks in large part to the sustained commitment of local, state and federal officials, some communities remain vulnerable,” he said.

Miller said that one of his graduate students, Audrey Fanning, completed a study showing that sustained moderate “nuisance” erosion events like those New Jersey experienced over the winter are likely to triple by 2050.

“This past winter has shown that you don’t need a Hurricane Sandy to cause beach erosion,” he said.

Shawn LaTourette, New Jersey’s environmental protection commissioner, said, “the repetitive nature of these erosional forces cannot be ignored.”

Erosion was particularly severe in the north end of Atlantic City over the winter, leaving at least three casinos with little usable beach during high tides.

Ocean Casino Resort, Resorts and Hard Rock, are pressing the federal and state governments to expedite a beach replenishment project that was supposed to have been done last year.

But under the current best-case scenario, new sand won’t be hitting the beaches until late summer, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that oversees such projects.

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In North Wildwood, which has consistently been the most seriously eroded Jersey Shore town over the past 10 years, a full-blown beach replenishment project is still about two years away. In April, the city and state said both sides have agreed to an emergency project to pump sand ashore in the interim, to give North Wildwood protection from storm surges and flooding.

North Wildwood and the state are suing each other over measures the city has taken, sometimes on its own, to move sand to protect its coastline. North Wildwood is seeking to have the state reimburse it for $30 million it has spent trucking sand in from other towns over the past decade.

This summer is predicted to be “an extremely active hurricane season,” Miller said Thursday at the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium’s state of the shore event.

Strong storms and high waves were recorded frequently over the winter, including one in January in which a measuring device at Sandy Hook recorded some of the highest water levels since Superstorm Sandy, the devasting 2012 storm.

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