With it becoming clear that the Ortley Beach oceanfront will not be replenished or otherwise repaired in time for the 2023 summer season, Toms River officials said they would take on the task of stabilizing the beach for another year.
Several storms dating back to the fall of 2022 have taken chunks out of the erosion-prone beachfront, creating “cliffs” along several blocks and mangling beach entrances, railings and matting material. It was initially thought that the expected U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ beach renourishment project – which will include a major focus on permanently improving Ortley Beach’s resilience – would at least be underway by the start of the summer, however hopes of an early replenishment effort have been dashed.
Mayor Maurice “Mo” Hill said the Army Corps is expected to place the project out to bid imminently, with a bid award expected in “mid-to-late April.” Likewise, Lavallette Mayor Walter LaCicero said his understanding of the timeline for the project was similar, in that the federal government could not solicit bids until all of the local municipal governments agreed to fund their “local share” of the replenishment costs. That “local share” has since been assumed by Ocean County, and will not be paid through municipal tax dollars.
Another factor that could increase the waiting period for replenishment is the lack of qualified bidders. Only two companies, Great Lakes Dredge & Dock, and Weeks Marine, have historically been able to take on major replenishment projects. Great Lakes completed a replenishment project in Ocean City, Strathmere and Sea Isle City, all in Cape May County, about two weeks ago. This week, after a staging period, replenishment work got underway in Rehoboth Beach, Del., and will continue south along the Delaware coast. Another replenishment project will begin in Ft. Pierce, Fla., later this week.
“When they finish those projects, they’ll come here, but we’re confident it’s not going to be until after the summer,” LaCicero said.
While Toms River will see a $1.9 million savings by way of the county’s agreement to fund the project, local infrastructure repairs will still fall to the township. Some beach entrances remain closed – or at least functionally inaccessible – today. Hill said Toms River will have the neighborhood’s beach access restored by the summer.
“Whatever we need to do to get that beach serviceable, we’ll do,” Hill said.
Numerous Shore area mayors appealed to Gov. Phil Murphy to dedicate some of the untapped billions in federal infrastructure and pandemic-era relief funds toward beach maintenance, which many deem to be a statewide resource that generates billions in sales taxes for Trenton. But the state, so far, has declined, eliciting more frustration from the mayor.
“It’s a shame we don’t get any help from the state – this is all on the township,” he said. “We’re getting cut in school aid, a lousy deal with Ciba-Geigy, and there’s no money for our beaches. So, thank you Trenton.”
The federal government has already appropriated funding for the replenishment project, which will shore up beaches between Point Pleasant Beach and South Seaside Park. As of Tuesday, there were no federal bid notifications published on the replenishment effort.