By John Burton |
The long-delayed protective sea wall project will proceed in both Sea Bright and Monmouth Beach, following last week’s ruling by a state Superior Appellant Court.
The court ruled in favor of the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in a lawsuit brought by one of the project bidders. The ruling now allows the protracted repair and building project to finally move forward on portions of the stone sea wall running along Ocean Avenue/Route 36 in Monmouth Beach and Sea Bright.
The project is being done in cooperation with the DEP and with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and would repair portions of the wall damaged by Super Storm Sandy on Oct. 29, 2012.
Along with patching and repairing sections of the wall, the major portion of the project involves constructing the wall in stretches where it hadn’t previously existed. In Sea Bright that area is the approximately 1,000-foot stretch on the eastern side of Ocean Avenue facing the public beach in the downtown business district. In Monmouth Beach, plans call for the construction of a 675-foot section of wall in the vicinity of the Monmouth Beach bathing pavilion, a borough-owned and operated beach and pool club at 29 Ocean Ave.
“By closing these gaps, it will absolutely protect these areas,” said Monmouth Beach Mayor Susan Howard.
The project was initially announced in August 2014. According to the DEP’s press release at the time, the state would contribute $8.5 million toward the overall approximate $28 million project and it was expected to go out to bid later in 2014 with construction commencing in 2016.
“Sea Bright has identified this as a critical project going forward after Sandy because of the damage that we sustained during the storm surge,” said Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long this week.
During Sandy, that gap in Sea Bright’s wall created a funnel effect accelerating the velocity of the water, with the tidal surge rushing into the downtown commercial and residential properties in the area. That surge and flooding caused millions of dollars in damages, in some cases destroying structures, and displacing residents and business owners for many months.
Monmouth Beach had less damage than Sea Bright, but damage nonetheless. Howard remembered that, because of the open area, “FEMA knows more damage was sustained coming from the ocean at the bathing pavilion down Valentine Street.” She believes it motivated the federal agency to advance this project.
The project, however, was stalled by a lawsuit brought by one of the contract bidders, which objected to the criteria the DEP used to award the contract to another company, the lowest bidder, with the plaintiff also arguing the winning contractor’s bid was materially deficient because it failed to meet the contract specifications. The Appellate Court on March 29 rejected the argument, ruling in favor of the state and the winning contractor, JFC Construction, Jersey City.
As the legal wrangling played out, the DEP installed a temporary metal sheet wall in the gap area in Sea Bright as a stopgap measure, according to Long.
Lawrence Hanja, a DEP spokesman, said the contractor was notified following the court ruling and, “We’ll be looking to mobilize to begin the process as soon as possible.”
No date has been set to begin the project and Hanja explained, “The contractor’s schedule, to some degree, dictates when this can get started.”
Monmouth Beach’s civil engineer, Bonnie Heard, said there are environmental restrictions for that water-front area, preventing the work to proceed from the end of March until September. “I would think September,” the project would move forward, Heard suspected.
“We’re concerned about the timing impacting our summer beach season,” Long acknowledged. “But we have assurances from the DEP that they will work with us to minimize any negative impact.”
Long said a pre-construction meeting was planned with the contractor and borough and state officials later this week.
The stone seawall dates back to at least the early 1940s, according to some sources. It was built to protect the tracks for the Central Jersey Railroad, which ran a line along Ocean Avenue from Sandy Hook to Long Branch.
The wall’s gap in Sea Bright was to accommodate the Octagon Hotel, a large beachfront resort at the time.
This article was first published in the April 6-13, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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