Work begins to shore up vulnerable N.J. lighthouse

The East Point Lighthouse was built in 1849 where the Maurice River meets the Delaware Bay. (Bill Barlow for WHYY)

The East Point Lighthouse was built in 1849 where the Maurice River meets the Delaware Bay. (Bill Barlow for WHYY)

Construction work is underway to protect a historic Delaware Bay lighthouse that is vulnerable to storm surge flooding, New Jersey officials announced.

Cumberland County’s East Point Lighthouse – the second oldest in the state – is in danger of suffering irreparable damage due to years of shoreline erosion, according to Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe.

The Cape Cod-style lighthouse, built in 1849, is a two-story brick structure situated just 90 feet from a mean high water mark where the Delaware Bay meets the Maurice River. The state has recently placed sand and large sandbags around the structure to protect it from storms.

The National Park Service provided a grant to the state’s Historic Preservation Office to protect the lighthouse. Cape May County’s Walters Marine Construction is implementing the $460,150 project.

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According to the Department of Environmental Protection, crews are installing a 570-foot long protection system running from the public boat ramp to higher ground consisting of 8-foot diameter durable “geotube” filled with sand and a series of similarly durable “mattresses” containing sand.

McCabe says the project will provide temporary protection while engineers evaluate and develop long-term solutions, including elevating the structure, relocation, or protecting it with a protective wire-enclosed boulder wall.

“We continue to work closely with local officials, the state legislative delegation and the Maurice River Township Historical Society on developing a long-term plan to protect this iconic beacon that stands as a symbol for the Delaware Bay region and its rich maritime heritage,” she said.

The lighthouse, only surpassed in age by the Sandy Hook Lighthouse, built in 1764, remains an active navigation aid, according to the state.

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