- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

SEA BRIGHT, N.J. (AP) - There’s more of the Jersey shore this year.

Massive replenishment projects, coupled with a relatively calm winter that caused little erosion have New Jersey’s beaches in great shape for the start of the summer season.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in the midst of widening beaches along much of the state’s 127-mile coastline. Work is underway on Long Beach Island and in the southern half of Ocean City. Other areas, including southern Monmouth and parts of Cape May and Atlantic counties, already have had some work completed.

“I would say the beaches are in very good condition,” said Jon Miller, a coastal expert with Stevens Institute of Technology. “We really didn’t have any significant storms for the second year in a row, which certainly helps. Summer is looking good too, as the forecast is for a quiet season in the tropics.”

Here’s a look at what beachgoers can expect this summer:

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MONMOUTH COUNTY

The roar of heavy equipment is being heard between Long Branch and Loch Arbour. The project is pumping sand onto beaches that in some spots have eroded all the way to the rock walls serving as a barrier of last resort between oceanfront homes and the sea, particularly in Deal. Workers with metal detectors are scanning the newly-pumped sand in Loch Arbour after components of World War I-era munitions were dredged up from offshore, where the Navy dumped them decades ago.

One place where the replenishment is not working so great is in Sea Bright. Less than two years after they were widened, beaches in the northern half of town are badly eroded, with waves cutting through newly erected sand dunes. Miller said that area has long been an erosion hot spot, dating to the 1600s, because the Navesink River used to break through the narrow barrier island during serious storms. Heavy development on the island has forced regular and expensive measures to replace what the waves take away.

“If you want to talk about coastal protection and beach nourishment, there’s a prime example,” Miller said. “If we ‘let it go back to nature,’ the northern part of Sea Bright, the Route 36 bridge, access to Sandy Hook, and low-lying parts of Rumson and the Highlands likely go with it.”

Widening projects also have been completed in southern Monmouth, including Belmar, Spring Lake, Sea Girt and Manasquan. Work has been done or is planned for several Raritan Bay beaches.

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OCEAN COUNTY

This area suffered the heaviest damage during Sandy. While Long Beach Island is getting a long-awaited replenishment, the northern part of the county remains vulnerable to future storms. Resistance from many oceanfront homeowners to signing easements permitting the beach widening and dune construction work to proceed has kept the work from beginning. This is where iconic damage from the storm occurred, including a roller coaster that plunged off the Seaside Heights boardwalk into the ocean, as well as the devastated communities of Mantoloking (cut in two by the ocean), Bay Head and the Ortley Beach section of Toms River.

Northern Ocean County lost 5 million cubic yards of sand during Sandy, or enough to cover an NFL stadium with a rectangular pile of sand a half-mile tall.

The state built a steel sea wall and covered it with sand to protect Mantoloking and a section of neighboring Brick, but erosion is a short-term concern there. Ortley Beach trucked sand in to replace some of what was lost, but many residents fear that the lack of dunes will doom them in another storm like Sandy. The privately-owned Jenkinson’s Boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach is suing the state to block planned dune construction.

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ATLANTIC COUNTY

Atlantic City, Ventnor and Brigantine were restored shortly after Sandy and have been holding up relatively well. Margate has gotten the furthest in its opposition to the dunes plan, wrestling it to a draw in federal court. The town’s residents don’t want dunes blocking their ocean view, and its officials say the worst flooding came from the bay, not the ocean. The town says its wooden bulkheads are sufficient to protect against flooding - a claim several coastal scientists dispute.

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CAPE MAY COUNTY

Tons of sand are being pumped ashore on the southern end of Ocean City, which has not gotten the attention that its more erosion-prone north end has. Avalon, Cape May, Cape May Point and Stone Harbor have recently been widened. And work in Upper Township and Sea Isle City should be done this year.

Wildwood, which due to prevailing onshore currents already had freakishly wide beaches, actually gained sand during Sandy, as did Cape May, said Stewart Farrell, director of the Coastal Research Center at Stockton University. Countywide, about 80 percent of sand lost to Sandy that migrated to offshore sand bars has returned to beaches since then, and about half of the remaining sand should come back ashore over the next three years if the experience from the Dec. 1992 nor’easter is repeated, Farrell said.

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Wayne Parry can be reached at https://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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