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“This is a national responsibility; this is not a local responsibility,” Biden said. “We’re one national government, and we have an obligation.”

Farrell and others have been documenting post-Sandy erosion; so far, they’re about three-quarters finished with the study, an early version of which has been sent to Gov. Chris Christie’s office but not made public.

Farrell told the AP that the survey found the average beach’s sand loss was 30 to 40 feet. But some lost five times that amount. Mantoloking, one of the hardest-hit communities, lost 150 feet of beach, he said.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection declined to discuss the extent of beach erosion after Sandy, saying assessments are still ongoing.

But the U.S. Geological Survey said Sandy caused “extreme and often catastrophic erosion” and flooding in places like Mantoloking. The group’s before-and-after photos show that a part of Long Branch appears to have lost three-quarters of its beach. Seaside Heights _ where MTV’s popular reality show “Jersey Shore” is filmed _ looks to have lost about 80 percent of its sand, and Brigantine about 90 percent.

“Sandy rapidly displaced massive quantities of sand in a capacity that visibly changed the landscape,” the survey wrote in a report.

In contrast, places with recently beefed-up beaches including Avalon, Stone Harbor, Cape May and the central part of Ocean City came through the storm with comparatively little property damage, he said.

How big the beaches are _ or whether there is a beach at all to go to _ is a crucial question that must be resolved well before the tourist season starts next Memorial Day. The Jersey shore is the economic engine that powers the state’s $35.5 billion tourism industry.

Jogging in the street because Sandy had destroyed the Spring Lake boardwalk for the second time in little over a year, Michele Degnan-Spang said it was difficult to comprehend how things have changed in her community.

A few stray planks of the synthetic gray boardwalk that was just replaced last year at great expense after Hurricane Irene were strewn about the sand; concrete pilings that used to support the boardwalk now stretch for a mile off to the horizon like little Stonehenges.

“It’s horrible,” she said. “It’s draining to see this. It’s surreal. I’m walking through it and saying, `This really is happening.’”

The day after Sandy hit the last week in October, shore towns sprang into action, hastily reassembling dunes that were diminished or washed away. Using heavy machinery, they pushed sand into large piles up against beachfront homes and businesses as a potentially destructive nor’easter approached a week later. Those temporary measures largely worked.

But the work continues. Sea Bright, the state’s narrowest barrier island, was decimated by Sandy, pummeled by waves from the ocean and flooding from the Shrewsbury River.

Sea Bright, Bradley Beach, Ocean Grove and other towns have pushed huge piles of sand into the center of their beaches, to be spread around and used to shore up gaps the storm exposed. Others have pushed it into makeshift cliffs at the edge of damaged homes.

Sea Bright and neighboring Monmouth Beach lost a combined total of a half-million cubic yards of beach sand, according to Jon Miller, a professor of ocean engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology. That would be enough to cover the field at MetLife Stadium _ where the New York Jets and Giants play _ with a pile that would extend 100 feet past the top of the arena, he said.

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