With a federal beach replenish project that may be delayed into 2024, Toms River officials on Wednesday night recommitted themselves to maintaining the township’s ocean beaches for the upcoming summer season.
As has been the case for several years, northeast storms were particularly punishing at Ortley Beach, where several dune crossovers have remained closed since the fall due to erosion and the destruction of fencing and mats. In some cases, small “cliffs” formed at the dune line, causing a dangerous condition. The upcoming federal project, managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will pay extra attention to re-engineering Ortley Beach and some other trouble spots, such as Normandy Beach, but last week Shorebeat reported that the federal government rejected bids for the project and will undertake a new round of solicitations.
The township council unanimously voted to award a $304,913 contract to Earle Asphalt Company to deliver sand, repair beach entrances and restore the dune crossovers to a working condition. The work may have been able to begin almost immediately, however forecasters are predicting a coastal storm this weekend – especially Friday and Saturday – could bring strong winds to the Shore area, bringing with it the possibility of additional erosion. Indeed, in 2021, a similar repair project was completed in May, just a week before a storm rolled through around Memorial Day weekend, necessitating a second round.
“This weekend we’re going to have a four-day storm,” said Mayor Maurice “Mo” Hill. “As you know, two years ago we did a dune repair, we were hit with a northeast storm, and we had to do a second repair. We’re going to wait until after the storm passes, and hopefully we will not have to do any other repairs.”
The contract will include repairs of all of the dune crossovers that were damaged over the fall and winter months. Earle’s bid on the project represented the lowest proposal – by far – for the work. The next-lowest bid was $597,000, followed by the third-lowest bid of $625,000.
Debbie Martin, an Ortley Beach resident, told council members more money should have been appropriated since “we ran out of sand” when a similar amount was dedicated to repairs in previous years.
“The [workers] came out and told people who were sitting there that they ran out of sand,” she said, spurring the conversation on the next-lowest bids.
Ultimately, officials said, the repairs are aimed at getting the township through the season in anticipation of the $60 million federal project, which is now estimated to begin either in the fall of 2023 or early 2024. That project itself will take more than a year to complete.
“We’re trying to come up with a temporary solution,” said Hill.