The public entrances and dune crossovers along the oceanfront in Ortley Beach have been reopened, ready to welcome visitors for Memorial Day weekend, however the beach berm itself remains thin – and in some areas, the slope down to the sand from the crossover is a bit steeper than in previous years.
A $305,000 emergency beach restoration project was undertaken by the township over the past two weeks, following a fall and winter that produced an average number of nor’easters and other weather events that eroded the oceanfront. While the dunes themselves held, the erosion formed “cliffs” of up to 10-feet in some areas – mainly near the former Joey Harrison’s Surf Club property – and destroyed the entrance crossovers, railings and “Mobi-Mats” that allow visitors to hit the sand.
At a meeting of the Toms River Township council this week, residents praised officials for getting the work completed on time for the summer season, but worried the beach berm was too thin to accommodate the number of visitors the neighborhood attracts every season.
“I don’t know where you’re going to put people,” said Ortley Beach resident Debbie Martin. “It’s 10 to 12 feet wide where I normally site. Something’s got to give.”
She continued: “Every time you sink money in, it’s absolutely ridiculous. We need the governor and the Army Corps … everyone should be phone-blasting. The entire island needs to get the Army Corps in. The first high tide and that beach will be gone.”
Council President Matthew Lotano said the local government reached out to the Army Corps about hosting a meeting in town, but they declined.
“The Army Corps pushed us off,” he said. “We’ve tried to get them here. If we don’t put the hundreds of thousands of dollars in, there will not be a beach.”
Martin said she understood, but believes officials should be working harder to push for the major replenishment project.
“I see the governor was in Ukraine during the last big storm,” she said. “I’ve never seen him in Ortley Beach.”
The township was able to tap funds from its annual snow plowing budget to complete the work, which involved trucked-in sand moved by heavy equipment to rebuild the entrances, since there were no accumulating snowfall events this year. A federal beach replenishment project that will pay special attention to Ortley Beach, with plans to re-engineer and significantly widen the beach berm – the berm being the portion of the beach where visitors set up their chairs – is pending. The work will incorporate observations and lessons learned over the past seven beach seasons in order to prevent the level of erosion, and the resulting cost of annual emergency fixes, however the project has faced numerous delays.
According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers bids were sought, but rejected, and the project is now being re-advertised.
“USACE is currently working through a contractual process to negotiate with bidders and hopes to be able to award a contract for dune and beachfill work,” the agency said this week through a spokesperson.
The work had been anticipated to be underway, if not completed, by this summer.