Surfers feel a wave of concern building over N.J. beach project

Beaches from Sea Bright to Manasquan are being restored at a coast of $100 million, the biggest beach restoration project in the nation right now. The goal is to protect roads, home and infrastructure from storm damage.

But not everybody is happy with the project.

John Weber is the Mid-Atlantic regional manager of the Surfrider Foundation. He says widening the beaches could worsen the conditions for surfing while making it more hazardous for anyone who takes a dip in the ocean.

“You can imagine if you build the beach out seaward towards the ocean, three or four hundred feet, that’s deeper water out there,” Weber said. “So now the water’s edge is meeting the sand much closer to deep water. You could take two steps off the beach, and you’re in water up to your neck. That could be dangerous for kids, seniors, whatever.”

He also said waves may break right on the beach: “It’s called the shore break and even a two or three foot shore break could knock down and adult whereas right now we have a sandbar and the waves break farther offshore.”

Environmental groups say the beach projects could also harm marine life.

“One of the concerns is that they scour the bottom of the ocean and pump all the sand back up,” said Jeff Tittel of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “What it does it actually kills all the little fish eggs and plankton and small fish in that process. So it turns the ocean bottom basically into a desert.”

Coastal engineer Jon Miller at Stevens Institute of Technology says the impact on waves that Weber describes should be temporary.  At first, the beach contour will be artificially steep, he said, but will eventually return to its natural slope. i

“That will take basically until the first big storm or two comes,” Miller said. “So it really depends on when they finish the project and when that next storm occurs.”

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