City Council added its voice on Thursday (Nov. 29) to the chorus pleading for the federal Army Corps of Engineers to expand a project that would widen severely eroded beaches on only half of Ocean City.
Council voted unanimously to pass a nonbinding resolution (see attached PDF for full text) "respectfully requesting" the federal government to approve funding for beach replenishment from 36th to 59th streets. Mayor Jay Gillian and south-end citizens have already lobbied for more sand.
The federal government is scheduled this winter to set up a dredge off the coast of Ocean City, lay underwater pipe and pump more than a million cubic yards of sand onto the island's storm-ravaged beaches.
The $10 million beach-widening project is also scheduled to stop somewhere near 14th Street — leaving more than four miles of Ocean City beaches without a grain of sand to show for all the effort.
The request takes on new meaning in the wake of "superstorm" Sandy, which wiped out dune systems across much of the island, and leaves the severely eroded north and south ends of Ocean City extremely vulnerable to new coastal storms.
Richard Pearsall, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Philadelphia District, confirmed earlier this fall that the area between 36th and 59th streets in Ocean City is on a list of authorized projects.
Pearsall said the south-end project is waiting on two things: a project partnership agreement with the State of New Jersey and federal funding. He said the Army Corps uses economic benefits criteria to prioritize various projects.
"The money spent would be insignificant when compared to the millions in property value that would be lost," Councilman Scott Ping said.
Ping suggested inviting senators Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg and Congressman Frank LoBiondo to tour Ocean City's defenseless south end.
Ocean City is responsible to fund only 8.75 percent of the anticipated $10 million project, with the remainder funded by the Army Corps and state Department of Environmental Protection.
The federal Army Corps typically pays for the bulk of the work, but the state would have the option to pay for the south-end project itself — something that happened in 1995 ($1,233,000) and 2001 ($1.8 million) when the state provided funds for the federal Army Corps to continue work beyond 36th Street to replenish south-end beaches (see second PDF for project history).
Ocean City was first approved for an ongoing federal Army Corps of Engineers beach replenishment program in the 1990s for the area from the north end of the island to 36th Street. The 50-year agreement calls for maintenance dredging every three years (contingent on the approval of federal funding).
City Council in August unanimously approved borrowing $617,500 to help fund its portion of an anticipated project that would pump sand to widen Ocean City's beaches before next summer.
The new project would restore Ocean City beaches from the northernmost jetty near Seaspray Road to an area near 14th Street. The project would restore those beaches to their original profile.
It's not yet clear if the approved project would be extended to cover the permitted area between 17th and 36th streets in the aftermath of Sandy. While the wide and healthy dune systems in that part of the island held back the storm surge from Sandy, large sections of dune were flattened in the storm. The expansion of the project to that already-approved area potentially could be achieved with funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The beach replenishment program is seen as vital to the economy of Ocean City and other shore towns that rely on summer visitors to thrive.
The work is scheduled to be done in conjunction with a project in nearby Brigantine.
The Brigantine portion of the project would be completed first, making the Ocean City work likely to happen in late winter or early spring in 2013.