Ocean County is weeks away from long-awaited dune project
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Considered to be one of the most vulnerable stretches along New Jersey's coastline, Ortley Beach will be the first spot in northern Ocean County to benefit from a beach replenishment project that local officials have been waiting on since the shore was slammed by Superstorm Sandy.
Within the next few weeks, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection, a $128 million Army Corps of Engineers beach and dune construction project should start rolling with the dumping of approximately 267,000 cubic yards of sand from offshore onto the Toms River barrier island, creating a beach width of approximately 225 feet over two weeks.
The department announced in March that the project would begin mid-April, but spokesman Larry Hajna said timing depends on availability of the necessary dredging equipment.
Buildup of the dunes in Ortley Beach will not be completed until fall. Following the initial beachfill, the project will address other exposed beaches in Mantoloking, Seaside Heights and Seaside Park, and then return to Ortley Beach. The project is tentatively scheduled to hit Brick, Normandy Beach and Lavallette in 2018.
The project contractor is Cranford-based Weeks Marine.
In order to minimize impact to residents and visitors, Weeks Marine will be working in 1,000-foot-wide sections of beach, the department said.
"I'm delighted that it's going to get started," Toms River Mayor Thomas Kelaher told New Jersey 101.5. "It's a project that's really necessary. Toms River was devastated as a result of Sandy."
Kelaher recalled stopping at the top of the Mantoloking Bridge a couple days after the October 2012 storm.
"Where there used to be big homes, trees, traffic lights ... there was absolutely nothing except sand and the ocean," he said.
Work in northern Ocean County will unfold over two major phases, Hajna noted. The first phase involves the communities mentioned above. The schedule for the second phase — which targets Bay Head, Point Pleasant Beach and Berkeley Township — can't be determined until the necessary outstanding easements are secured.
Some property owners in the area believe a rock wall they built offers enough storm protection. At the same time, property owners are appealing a judge's decision that the state has the legal authority to seize their land through eminent domain for the dune project.
"We remain firmly committed to obtaining those easements," Hajna said. "It's important to have this continuous system of dunes and beaches to protect the area."
A separate, $63 million Absecon Island beach protection project is scheduled to run through early October. In Atlantic City, dunes will be restored to an elevation of approximately 15 feet above mean sea level. Longport, Margate and Ventnor's dunes will hit heights of approximately 13 feet above.
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