A state Department of Environmental Protection program that involves installing metal sheet piles along a stretch of the beach in Mantoloking and Brick is nearing completion in time for the winter season.

Piles of steel sheeting sit on the beach in Mantoloking for a $23.8 million sea wall to protect Mantoloking and Brick Township, two of the Jersey shore communities hit hardest by Superstorm Sandy, began on Thursday. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

Since the $28.3 million project started in July, crews have been driving 45-foot steel pilings into the sands along a three-and-a-half mile stretch near battered Route 35 in those two towns.

On Tuesday, DEP Commissioner Bob Martin spoke in Mantoloking, announcing the completion of the barrier along the Sandy-ravaged Ocean County community. He said crews will continue working in three different locations in Brick, and are expected to be finished by mid-November.

"Clearly this will provide long-term resiliency in combination with the Army Corps project that will follow," Martin said.

Even in its partially completed state, the pilings will provide protection to Mantoloking from any moderate storms that may hit.

After the sheet piling project is finished, it will be incorporated into a dune system as part of a beach construction project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Martin said even though there are over 100 outstanding easements, mainly in the borough of Bay Head where the DEP said the local leadership has been uncooperative, his department will have all the signatures by the end of the year -- even if legal action must be used to secure them.

The completed piling project, which has used marine grade steel, is expected to have a lifespan of roughly 75 years. Marine grade steel is able to stand up to the salt water and surf. It comes pre-coated with a layer of rust that prevents the remainder of the metal from corroding.

"It'll have a 75-year lifespan, minimum," said Robert Mainberger, senior vice president of Freehold-based Hatch Mott MacDonald, the company in charge of the project. "Typically, we expect that if it stays buried in the sand, it should last for 100 to 150 years, and if it is exposed to the surf we're looking at a lifespan of 50 years."

Mainberger said once the barrier is done, it will be able to withstand a storm of Sandy's magnitude.

Because it protects Route 35, the Federal Highway Administration has committed to paying 80 percent of the cost of the steel piling project using Sandy emergency relief funds. The remaining 20 percent is being funded by the DEP through its Shore Protection Program.