A federal funding package will appropriates tens of millions of dollars toward beach replenishment maintenance projects, as well as a major effort to study anti-flood infrastructure on Barnegat Bay, plus upgrades to the Point Pleasant Canal.
U.S. Rep. Andy Kim (D-3) announced the appropriations Thursday in a statement. The funding comes as part of two separate bills – a disaster relief bill signed into law in September and more recently-passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Kim voted in favor of both measures.
A federally-funded beach replenishment project resulted in expanded dunes from Manasquan to Barnegat inlets, with a few exceptions, over the course of several years of work after Superstorm Sandy. Federal regulations, as well as agreements signed with the state and municipalities, call for Washington to fund maintenance repairs after major storms or seven years, but a lack of federal appropriations could have jeopardized the planned round of maintenance. Now, that funding is in place and maintenance projects can be designed and put out to bid.
The maintenance project is particularly important for some areas of the local oceanfront, especially Ortley Beach and Bay Head, which have continued to suffer beach erosion following the completion of the initial project (though the dunes themselves have never come close to being breached). The next round of the project will take into account the unique features of certain areas and engineer them in a “bespoke” manner that will make those beaches more resilient.
For oceanfront projects, the disaster relief bill sets aside $3.2 million to complete an evaluation of conditions from Sandy Hook to Barnegat Inlet, and the infrastructure bill provides for $30.2 million for the work to physically complete the maintenance project.
Timelines will be announced once the projects are designed, though local officials have been engaging with their federal and state counterparts for more than a year on specific situations like the one in Ortley Beach.
Back Bays and Rivers
The bulk of Ocean County’s hard marine infrastructure is, of course, located in the back bays and rivers. Studies have already been proposed and designed to tackle the top issue for homeowners near the bay – flooding – but the newest bill dedicates $2.47 million to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Investigations Work Plan for the New Jersey Back Bay feasibility study that will help make recommendations on how to protect coastal communities from both “everyday flooding” and the impacts of severe weather, Kim’s statement said.
Kim had previously penned a letter supporting the funding of the study when it was left out of a previous budget proposal. The study will look at numerous solutions, including physical infrastructure such as tide gates crossing the bay near Barnegat Inlet, levees and flood walls similar to that which is installed in the New Orleans region. There were no details available as to when, exactly, the study would begin.
Finally, the infrastructure law includes $14.3 million for repairs to the NJ Intracoastal Waterway, with the local highlight being the inclusion of repairs for the Point Pleasant Canal bulkhead. Additionally, the law appropriates $922,000 for dredging at Barnegat Inlet, and for surveys of the inlet entrance channel to assess any damage from recent coastal storms.
“This funding will help keep a critical navigation route safe for our boaters on the Jersey Shore,” said Kim.