- Associated Press - Monday, October 5, 2015

BAY HEAD, N.J. (AP) - Days of gusting wind and pounding surf have caused severe beach erosion in many spots along the New Jersey shore.

Some beaches, including ones devastated by Superstorm Sandy three years ago and not yet replenished, appear to have lost most of their sand. And in many places where protective dunes stood between the ocean and homes, the surf cut large cliffs into the sand, leaving drop-offs up to 10 feet.

Bay Head lost much of its sand, and walkways that once led down to the beach now dangle in midair. The beaches were not wide before the storm, and Bay Head is one of several shore communities resisting a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan to widen beaches and construct protective sand dunes. The residents don’t want the dunes to block their oceanfront views and they object to the government taking their private property by eminent domain.

Gov. Chris Christie last week called dune opponents selfish. He urged people upset that beaches have not been widened and dunes not constructed to knock on doors of oceanfront property owners in Bay Head and Point Pleasant Beach to ask why they haven’t signed easements to allow the work to proceed.

Bob Martin, the state’s environmental protection commissioner, surveyed beaches Monday and saw the worst damage in northern Ocean County, which includes those towns.

“Most of it was because of the fact that those beaches haven’t been done yet and they’re exposed,’ he said. “This is what happens when you don’t have those projects. People say, “Oh, we don’t need them.” Guess what? You do need it. Sand actually works.”

Stewart Farrell, director of the Coastal Research Institute at Stockton University, echoed those words, saying the absence of shore protection work has left these areas vulnerable to storm damage.

Mantoloking, Brick, Toms River, Ocean City and Long Beach Island had major erosion as well. A 2-mile steel sea wall in Mantoloking and Brick took a pounding during the storm, and some of the sand that once covered it washed away. But it prevented catastrophic flooding and property damage in an area that suffered some of the worst damage from Sandy.

“The beaches suffered a great deal over the past four days,” said Mantoloking Police Chief Stacy Ferris. “The wall did exactly what it was designed to do, thankfully. However, we need the Army Corps of Engineers project.”

The Ortley Beach section of Toms River lost 50 to 60 percent of its dunes and much of the sand on beaches that were already narrow before the storm. The town was trucking sand in before and during the storm and continues shoring up some of the most vulnerable spots.

Martin said the state’s immediate goal is to identify areas that need emergency help such as new sand for the beaches to help get them through this winter.

In Ocean City, a beach replenishment project is underway - but it might not look that way. Work was completed in a section on the southern end of town just a week ago. But much of that recently pumped sand washed away during the storm.

Even in less hard-hit areas of Ocean City, sand loss was noticeable. The website OCNJDaily.com had measured the distance from a bulkhead on 58th Street to the water’s edge a week ago with a handheld GPS and calculated it at 281 yards. On Sunday, it was 211 yards.

Atlantic City saw serious erosion in its north end near the former Revel casino, where beaches and dunes were damaged. In Cape May County, erosion was particularly bad at the southern end of Sea Isle City and the north end of North Wildwood.


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

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