In Seaside Heights, the boardwalk and beach go together like peas in a pod. But after the borough was devastated by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, it was finally determined that a prime view of the ocean might have to be sacrificed for protection from the ocean’s wrath.
Work began last week, and ramped up in earnest on Monday, to expand beaches and build engineered dunes along the entire length of Seaside Heights. Crews will pump sand onto the oceanfront, expanding the beach berm (the area where we set up our beach chairs) between 200 and 300 feet, and build dunes – anchored with dune grass and other vegetation – that will rise 22-feet above grade.
“It’s never going to be the same,” said Mayor Anthony Vaz, who has supported the project, but will miss the view that once allowed visitors to see the sun rise over the ocean without setting foot on the sand. “We can’t have our cake and eat it too. I would love to see the beach, but we also need the protections. There will always be pros and cons.”
The pipeline dredge E.W. Ellefsen, owned by the federal government’s contractor, Weeks Marine, was pumping sand on shore Monday as bulldozers and front loaders drove in and out of the staging area at Hiering Avenue. As it currently stands, construction is slated to last through February, with crews moving from the northern edge of the borough to its southern border with Seaside Park.
As projects like this go, the timing couldn’t be more perfect.
“My vision of our season starts on Palm Sunday, the Easter Egg Hunt, all of that sparks things up,” said Vaz. “As it is now, I’m not too concerned, because it’s the middle of November. There’s such a significant amount of time between now and April.”
Seaside Heights’ beach access points will all be rebuilt for the new season with angled dune crossovers that prevent any “splits” in the dune line where a storm surge can penetrate. At the site of Casino Pier, the structure itself will serve as a barrier to wave energy and the dune will not be constructed in front of it, officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have said.
For borough officials, Sandy provided an unwanted lesson in how important dunes really are.
“Seaside Park, which had dunes, had relatively little damage compared to Seaside Heights and other towns,” said Vaz. “It’s going to be for the best.”