Federal Funds Earmarked for Area For Sandy-Related Work

July 4, 2014
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By John Burton

Additional federal dollars are flowing into the Two River area for four projects that, in large part, will be used for Super Storm Sandy recovery and preventative measures.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) recently notified Oceanport officials the borough would be receiving $3.69 million for a new borough hall after the existing site had to be vacated because of damage sustained from the October 2012 storm.

Along with that project, FEMA has earmarked more than $2.9 million to shore up portions of the protective sea wall running along Ocean Avenue between Sea Bright and Monmouth Beach.

Other projects for the area are plans for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the Shrewsbury River and a $1.78 million grant from the U.S. Department of Interior’s National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to use some of the dredge material for thousands of feet for coastal dunes as added protection from future storms.

“I will tell you we are very pleased with the numbers we’ve heard” about the FEMA money to construct a new municipal facility, Oceanport administrator John O. Bennett said.

In March, officials moved Oceanport’s administrative offices out of the 222 Monmouth Blvd. location. The offices had been in the building since it was constructed in 1965. The move was made when an engineering report determined the facility had significant structural issues, rendering it unsafe to occupy due to damage caused by Super Storm Sandy.

Most operations were relocated to the borough-owned Old Wharf House, 316 East Main St.; police work out of a trailer.

Rosanna Arias, a FEMA media-relations specialist, said the $3.69 million was an assessment of the value of the existing borough hall, which was deemed more than 50 percent damaged.

Oceanport officials are considering four locations to build a new facility: a portion of the borough-owned Maria Gatta Park on Port Au Peck Avenue; property in the Main Street downtown shopping area; a former Fort Monmouth facility; or rebuilding on the existing Monmouth Boulevard site, which is the least likely, given the site’s susceptibility to flooding, Bennett said.

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Mayor Michael Mahon has convened a committee comprised of himself, Bennett, two borough council members, the borough engineer and an architect retained for the project.

The committee will research the issue and offer a recommendation, Bennett said.

No timeframe has been established, but Bennett said, “We’ll take our time and do it right.”

Oceanport police will be moving into temporary headquarters at Fort Monmouth in July, Bennett said.

The $2.9 million sea wall project will be used to fix designated areas along the wall that were damaged by Sandy – and exacerbated by subsequent storms – by repositioning boulders that came loose and filling voids where concrete washed out, according to Monmouth Beach Mayor Susan Howard.

The overall intention is “fortifying the sea wall, which has proven to be a great protector for Monmouth Beach,” Howard said.

The project is only one step in a larger project. “There are portions of the wall that still will have to be redone,” said Lawrence Ragonese, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

This portion of the overall project is about rehabilitation, he said. DEP engineers are working with local officials on a long-term “comprehensive design” which will involve replacing whole sections of the wall, mostly in the northern part of the community and along the downtown area in the south, such as in the area of the former Donovan’s Reef, Ragonese said.

The design process will take the remainder of the year and will have to be completed before the department can come up with cost estimates, the spokesman said.

The Shrewsbury River dredge project will be done in two stages, according to Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Christopher Gardner. The first will begin in mid-August for the northern portion during which they expect to dredge between 50,000 and 60,000 cubic yards of material. That sand will be used for the ocean side of Gateway National Recreation Area at Sandy Hook in cooperation with the National Park Service, according to Gardner.

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The second phase, planned for the fall – following the nesting period for the piping plover, a protected species – will cost about $1.79 million for the southern portion in the area of Monmouth Beach.

The river’s last dredging was in 2011. The purpose is to remove excessive sand deposits to keep the river channel navigable and reduce the risk to watercraft, Gardner said.

The dredging project is being paid for in full by money made available through the federal 2013 Disaster Relief Act, Gardner said.

The sand will be used as part of a $1.79 million project to create 6,400 feet of coastal dunes in the area, according to information provided by the office of U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-6th, whose Congressional district includes Monmouth Beach and Sea Bright.

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Fish and Wildlife Foundation has awarded Monmouth Beach $1.78 million through its Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resilience Grant Program, which will allow Monmouth Beach to use the dredged sand to create dunes in the area, offering an additional layer of storm protection.

In January, Pallone encouraged the Department of the Interior to offer Monmouth Beach this funding.

“We’re delighted with these projects,” Howard said. “We’re anxious to do anything we can to protect that beach with dunes and sea grass.”

The corps has just finished an extensive sand replenishment project along Monmouth County’s beachfront with the Monmouth Beach and Sea Bright portions completed last year.

The FEMA money is awarded to the state Department of Environmental Protection, which then allocates it to FEMA-approved projects, like Oceanport’s, according to FEMA spokesperson Arias.

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