By Chris Rotolo |
MIDDLETOWN – The second and final phase of the massive $115 million Port Monmouth Flood Control Project is well underway, but the timeline for completion has been tentatively pushed back two years to 2022.
So far the beachfront area and fishing pier near the historic Bayshore Waterfront Park have been replenished and reestablished. Concrete groins that have been constructed to run perpendicular to the beach and extend into the bay are completed. Levees, floodwalls and pumping stations have been created.
The most visible piece of the project is a lengthy floodwall and road closure gate near Monmouth Cove Marina and the installation of interior drainage/pump systems near Port Monmouth’s two major creeks. The 200-foot-tall tide gate is at Pews Creek and is still being completed. It will be an automated lift gate model complete with 20-foot-by-22-foot steel panels that can be closed to keep stormwater from spreading.
The completion date of the project being overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) has been rescheduled to a “soft date” of 2022, U.S. Army Corps project manager Dave Gentili told about 150 residents at a Nov. 5 informational meeting on the project. That completion might actually come sooner or later than 2022.
Impatient with the local nuisance flooding that has long been a fact of life for those living near Pews and Compton creeks, some questioned the extended timeline. In 2014 the Army Corps signed an agreement with the state on the long-planned project, which finally got underway after Port Monmouth was devastated by storm surges in Super Storm Sandy.
“I know you’re upset that it’s going to take a lot longer and I know there is still some flooding that we all have to deal with, but please be patient,” said Catherine Rogers, the leader of a citizen’s group that advocated for the federally funded plan.
“We worked very hard to get this funding and this plan. We’ve been fighting since the 1980s for this and every year Mr. (U.S Rep. Frank) Pallone would come and tell us he was going to protect us. And every year the money went somewhere else. We fought for this project and, when it’s finished, it will help us.”
Rogers, a township resident for 78 years, is married to Middletown’s Office of Emergency Management coordinator Charles Rogers.
She reminded her neighbors that while neighboring North Middletown was protected during Sandy thanks to its similar flood control system, Port Monmouth was swamped. “This project will stop that. So keep that in mind,” she said.
Some audience members said beachfronts and dunes were what shielded that part of town and that an extension of those natural landmasses could have spared Port Monmouth.
But township administrator Anthony P. Mercantante refuted that claim. “Levees, floodwalls and pumps. This system works. And it will work for Port Monmouth. No one is going to build a seawall along the entire Bayshore and the entire coast of New Jersey. These are the systems that work.”
He also told residents they can expect their flood insurance rates to be reduced once the project is completed.
Mercantante said approximately 25 nonresidential properties or portions of property near the area of the creeks need to be acquired to complete the project and negotiations for the acquisition of those parcels will begin soon. Letters to the property owners were mailed last week, he said.
When asked why these properties were not acquired years ago, so as to expedite this part of the process, Gentili said there are lots of “laws and procedures that preclude us from buying the land in advance.”
Part of the project’s work will include the raising of the road near State Route 36 and Compton Creek next summer. There will be some minor construction and possibly a road closure for a day.
Extensive work will also be conducted on the east and west sides of Broadway near Church Street in the area of Compton Creek, where a second road closure gate will be installed, as well as the construction of floodwalls, retaining walls, levees and interior drainage.
This article was first published in the Nov. 15 – Nov. 21, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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