Ocean County officials on Thursday announced that the county government would fund the entire cost of the “local share” of beach replenishment on the northern barrier island, upping its contribution from a pledged 50 percent last year.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to award a contract for the replenishment project in the coming months, which will take over a year to complete. The project is a “renourishment” that will serve as maintenance for local beaches after a major replenishment project was completed over the last seven years. Under a 50-year agreement, the federal government will pay the lion’s share of the costs, however a small portion was to be funded by either the state of municipalities. The state, local officials have said, refused requests to fund beach maintenance, leaving individual towns responsible for costs that ranged from about $50,000 to just under $2 million, in the case of Toms River.
“We know our local municipalities have faced financial struggles as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Ocean County Commissioner Gary Quinn. “And we also are well aware of the economic and environmental importance of our beaches. ”
Ocean County will fund the $7,550,000 local cost for the project, which is spread across the northern barrier island communities from Point Pleasant Beach to South Seaside Park. It will be paid directly to the state Department of Environmental Protection. The overall project is estimated to cost about $60 million. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will pay $30 million, with the remaining $30 million coming from the state and local share.
The mayors of the island’s beach towns gathered at the county administration building this week to discuss the project and hear the news of the increased funding.
“We are here to work with you,” Quinn told the mayors. “We are here to help your towns. Our beaches are very important to us and we want to make sure we do all we can to get this project done.”
The Northern Barrier Island municipalities receiving the assistance are Berkeley Township, Seaside Park, Seaside Heights, Toms River Township, Lavallette, Brick Township, Mantoloking, Bay Head, and Point Pleasant Beach.
While Point Pleasant Borough has no oceanfront property and is not part of the replenishment effort, borough leaders have been supportive of the project in order to assist their neighboring communities, county officials noted.
“This takes a massive weight off of our shoulders,” Mantoloking Mayor E. Laurence “Lance” White said. “We deeply appreciate what you are doing.”
Brick Mayor John Ducey added that the funding will help the township meet its budget for the year, as Brick and every other municipal government delves into the lengthy process of putting together an annual spending plan.
“With the county, it’s good to see everyone work together as a team,” said Toms River Mayor Maurice “Mo” Hill. “The anticipated cost would have been a budget buster for Toms River and the other municipalities.”
“As liaison to tourism and business development, it’s important we all work together,” Commissioner Joseph Vicari said. “Tourism is a cornerstone of our economy. In addition, beach replenishment also protects the properties of our year-round residents and businesses.”