State of the Shore Report Focuses on Beach Erosion

June 1, 2017
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Bob Martin, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, fields questions about the state of Jersey Shore beaches.

By Alex Mitsiopoulos |

LONG BRANCH – The 15th Annual State of the Shore Media Event, hosted by the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium, took place on Wednesday at McLoone’s Pier House. The event was led by speakers Bob Martin, Commissioner at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and Jon Miller, Research Assistant Professor at Stevens Institute of Technology.

Topics of discussion revolved around the communal care for the Jersey Shore, particularly its beaches. Following Super Storm Sandy, New Jersey beaches were left in ruin due to erosion, but luckily these same beaches are currently in a natural state of rebuilding, according to the event’s participants.

But even in a rebuilding state, Miller still waves a cautionary flag to residents of the Jersey Shore. “One Sandy is one too many,” he said.

Prior to Super Storm Sandy, there was a sense of complacency toward large storms, according to Miller. No one ever expects to be devastated by something like that, but it does happen.

To gain a deeper knowledge about erosion caused by storms like Sandy, the Stevens Institute of Technology has recently developed a Storm Erosion Index (SEI). The SEI uses wave heights, water levels, and storm duration to put a numerical quantity to the potential physical erosion a particular storm may cause.

“We kind of put the storms over the last 30 years into context and what that allows us to do is, when we have storms like this past winter, assess those storms in terms of what the history shows,” said Miller.

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According to Miller, the storm that occurred in January was the eleventh most significant storm in the 30-year record in terms of erosion. Eventually, Miller hopes to use the SEI as a tool similar to a storm search forecast, or a water level forecast, to inform the public and, in turn, keep them safe.

Safety is of utmost importance to both Miller and Martin. According to Martin, the most common reason a beach will close is due to storm water runoff. During storms, the heights of waves and water levels both rise, which can cause flooding if an area is not properly protected.

To combat this, the New Jersey DEP has been working on 11 projects, in conjunction with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to help fortify beaches along the Jersey Shore.

One project in particular is taking place in the Port Monmouth section of Middletown. According to Martin, it will focus on building flood walls, as well as other structures, to help protect the community and it will cost about $105 million. Phase one of the project was completed in 2015 and phase two started in October of 2016. It is scheduled to be fully completed in November of 2020.

Another project is repairing the Sea Bright sea wall, which was badly damaged in Super Storm Sandy. It is estimated to cost $30 million, and 90 percent of the money for that project will come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), according to Martin. It will also build an additional section to remove the gaps in the wall that existed before Sandy.

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“It’s impossible to imagine New Jersey without the Jersey Shore. It’s an important part of our culture, an important part of our quality of life, it’s the identity of our state,” said Martin.

New Jersey does about $44 billion each year in tourism, and half of that comes from the Jersey Shore, according to Martin. Protecting the beaches is of utmost importance, both financially and for the safety of residents who live in those communities.

This article was first published in the May 25-June 1, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.

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