- Associated Press - Thursday, May 7, 2015

SHIP BOTTOM, N.J. (AP) - A long-awaited beach replenishment project is underway at one of New Jersey’s top vacation spots.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started work this week in Ship Bottom on a $128 million project that will restore nearly 13 miles of beaches and dunes on Long Beach Island. The department of Environmental Protection held a news conference Thursday to discuss details of the project.

“This is a tremendous day for the residents of Long Beach island, and for everyone who loves to visit and vacation here,” said DEP Commissioner Robert Martin.

The island was severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The work is part of a $1.2 billion appropriation by Congress to return the beaches to a better condition than they were in before the storm. This phase will replenish beaches in Ship Bottom, Long beach Township, Beach Haven, and a part of Surf City that was left out of a previous replenishment project.

The project served as a reminder that pockets of resistance remain at the shore from homeowners who don’t want to lose their first-floor ocean views, or who fear government may build boardwalks, bathrooms or even amusement rides near their homes - something the state assures it has no plans to do.

The DEP says 49 out of 850 homeowners on Long Beach Island who need to sign easements permitting the work still have not done so. Statewide, about 300 easements remain to be gotten, including 179 in Bay Head. Martin said the state will use eminent domain to take the land if owners don’t sign voluntarily. They would be compensated for the fair market value of the narrow strip of land taken for the project.

“We will get them, voluntarily or not,” Martin said. “We’re asking for cooperation.”

The project, fully paid for by the federal government, involves sucking sand from the ocean floor, pumping it ashore through huge metal pipes and straining it through a metal cage to catch anything other than sand and water. As Martin and others spoke Thursday, the height of the beach behind them was rising noticeably minute by minute as tons of sand built up where it was pumped ashore.

All told, 8.2 million cubic yards of sand will be pumped onto beaches in the four towns involved in the current project. Lt. Col. Andrew Yoder of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said that’s enough to fill Lincoln Financial Stadium, where the Philadelphia Eagles play football, eight times over.

Numerous officials said beaches that had been replenished and had protective dunes before Sandy hit fared much better than those that didn’t.

“In the days immediately after Sandy, it was flyover photos of Long Beach Island that provided the clearest visual evidence that dunes and beach nourishment make a difference,” said Lt. Col. Michael Bliss, commander of the Army Corps Philadelphia District. “We saw sections where this project had already been built, right alongside others where it had not, and the contrast in terms of property damage was striking. No one wants to see that again.”

The project will expand beaches to a width of 325 to 415 feet.

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


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