Plans But No Sand for the South End of Ocean City
The Army Corps of Engineers tells City Council they are still awaiting word on funding to restore eroded beaches.
A pair of project leaders updated City Council on Thursday on the details of beach-replenishment work in progress on the north end of Ocean City and on the potential for a similar project on the south end.
But they didn't say the one thing that a standing-room-only crowd of south-end property owners wanted to hear: that a new beach-widening project is imminent.
The Army Corps of Engineers has a $20 million plan to widen eroded beaches from 34th to 59th streets. It was approved in 2007 but has never been funded.
Dwight Paken, a project manager with the federal Army Corps of Engineers, said the billions in federal disaster relief money could potentially be used, but he did not know yet how relief funding would be implemented.
"The big thing is the funding right now," Paken said.
William Dixon, a supervising environmental specialist with the state Department of Environmental Protection, said some of the hardest-hit shore communities in Monmouth and Ocean counties are further behind in the application process than Ocean City but may be deemed a higher priority.
"We don't have that answer yet," Dixon said. "It's too early in the game."
The existing plans for the south end include creating a beach at 7 feet elevation (NAVD88) with a 25-foot-wide dune at 12.8 feet elevation. That profile would be maintained every three years. To get the quantity of sand required, the Army Corps would have to use a borrow site farther offshore than some of the other recent projects that operated from near Corson's Inlet.
In an Army Corps project, the federal government pays 65 percent of the cost with the state picking up the other 35 percent. Of the state's share, Ocean City would be responsible for 25 percent. The arrangement allows Ocean City to enjoy the benefits of the ongoing project while paying just 8.75 percent of its cost.
In addition to securing federal funding, the process includes:
- A "limited reevaluation report" (the Army Corps must justify that benefits exceed costs ... the Corps has already done this but plans to turn in an updated report in the next month.
- A "project partnership agreement" (the Army Corps must get the state to sign on ... the state had agreed even prior to Sandy, according to Dixon).
- Property easements (the Army Corps must have updated easements from beachfront property owners).
- New survey data and update of plans.
Dixon said Mayor Jay Gillian also has requested a project shared in cost by the state and the city. But he said the state has no extra money this year. The state usually has about $25 million per year from real estate transfer taxes to use for such projects.
In the meantime, City Council has already approved a bond ordinance that includes $2.7 million to replace dunes, fencing and plantings across the length of Ocean City's beachfront. The plan includes funding to truck in sand to bolster dunes at the south end.
A long line of south-enders spoke in the public comment portion at the start of the meeting, as they did at the last public council meeting, asking council to protect property, to preserve the greatest asset of a tourist economy and to afford the south end the same consideration as other parts of the island.
The presentation by Dixon and Paken also included an update on the north end project:
- Started Feb. 15 and sand-pumping expected to end by May 27 with the overall project complete by July 3.
- Will include beaches from the terminal jetty at Seaspray Beach to 14th Street.
- Will include 1.8 million cubic yards of sand pumped at 20,000 cubic yards per day (about 200 to 300 feet of beach per day).
- Will restore beaches to an elevation of 8.7 feet (NAVD88). Hurricane Sandy reached 7.25 feet on the same scale.
- Will include dune restoration (paid for by the City of Ocean City)
- Will come at a total cost of $16 million (with Ocean City paying a $976,763 share).