Superstorm shines light on federal beach program

The average beach lost between 30 to 40 feet of sand due to Hurricane Sandy VIDEO

Topics: beach, aol_on, Hurricane Sandy, FEMA, Video, From the Wires, Jersey Shore, New Jersey, jersey coast,

SPRING LAKE, N.J. (AP) — Towns along the Jersey shore that made use of federal money to build up beaches came through Superstorm Sandy with far less damage than those that didn’t, findings that are sure to intensify a debate that has raged for years over the wisdom of pumping millions of dollars’ worth of sand onto the coastline, only to see it wash away continually.

That dispute pits coastal advocates for some of the most valuable shoreline in the country against elected officials from inland states who say it’s unfair to ask taxpayers from, say, the Great Plains to pay to keep rebuilding beaches they don’t even use.

The storm caused major erosion along New Jersey’s famous 127-mile coastline, washing away tons of sand and slimming down beaches. Some lost half their sand; the average loss statewide was 30 to 40 feet of beach width, according to findings that are not yet public but were revealed to The Associated Press.

Routine storms tear up beaches in any season, and even normal waves carry away sand. Over the years, one prescription for insulating communities from the invading sea has been to artificially replenish beaches with sand pumped from offshore. The federal government picks up 75 percent of the cost, with the rest coming from state and local coffers.

“It really, really works,” said Stewart Farrell, director of Stockton College’s Coastal Research Center and a leading expert on beach erosion. “Where there was a federal beach fill in place, there was no major damage — no homes destroyed, no sand piles in the streets. Where there was no beach fill, water broke through the dunes.”

From 1986 to 2011, nearly $700 million was spent placing 80 million cubic yards of sand on about 55 percent of the New Jersey coast. Over that time, the average beach had gained 4 feet of width, according to the Coastal Research Center. And just before the storm hit, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded nearly $28 million worth of contracts for new replenishment projects in southern New Jersey’s Cape May County.

The pending spending showdown between congressional Republicans and Democrats could make it even harder to secure hundreds of millions of additional dollars for beach replenishment.

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, predicted lawmakers from New Jersey and New York would be able to get additional shore protection funds included in the next federal budget, despite partisan wars.

“I think we will be able to make the case,” he said. “We can show that this provides long-term protection to property and lives. You can either pay up front to keep on top of projects like this, or you can pay on the back end” through disaster recovery funds.

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, used a close-up photo of a pig to grace the cover of his 2009 report “Washed Out To Sea,” in which he characterized beach replenishment as costly, wasteful pork that the nation could ill afford.

You Might Also Like

“Taxpayers are not surprised when they learn how Congress wastes billions of dollars on questionable programs and projects each year, but it may still shock taxpayers to know that Congress has literally dumped nearly $3 billion into beach projects that have washed out to sea,” he wrote.

A message seeking comment was left Monday with Coburn’s office.

Menendez this week noted that Congress has approved emergency recovery funds for victims of Hurricane Katrina and tornadoes in Missouri, among other natural disasters.

“We expect that the United States of America will be there for New Jersey,” he said, stressing the word “united.”

During a tour of storm-wrecked neighborhoods in Seaside Heights and Hoboken, Vice President Joe Biden also vowed the federal government would pay to rebuild New Jersey.

“This is a national responsibility; this is not a local responsibility,” Biden said. “We’re one national government, and we have an obligation.”

Farrell and others have been documenting post-Sandy erosion; so far, they’re about three-quarters finished with the study, an early version of which has been sent to Gov. Chris Christie’s office but not made public.

Farrell told the AP that the survey found the average beach’s sand loss was 30 to 40 feet. But some lost five times that amount. Mantoloking, one of the hardest-hit communities, lost 150 feet of beach, he said.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection declined to discuss the extent of beach erosion after Sandy, saying assessments are still ongoing.

But the U.S. Geological Survey said Sandy caused “extreme and often catastrophic erosion” and flooding in places like Mantoloking. The group’s before-and-after photos show that a part of Long Branch appears to have lost three-quarters of its beach. Seaside Heights — where MTV’s popular reality show “Jersey Shore” is filmed — looks to have lost about 80 percent of its sand, and Brigantine about 90 percent.

“Sandy rapidly displaced massive quantities of sand in a capacity that visibly changed the landscape,” the survey wrote in a report.

In contrast, places with recently beefed-up beaches including Avalon, Stone Harbor, Cape May and the central part of Ocean City came through the storm with comparatively little property damage, he said.

How big the beaches are — or whether there is a beach at all to go to — is a crucial question that must be resolved well before the tourist season starts next Memorial Day. The Jersey shore is the economic engine that powers the state’s $35.5 billion tourism industry.

Jogging in the street because Sandy had destroyed the Spring Lake boardwalk for the second time in little over a year, Michele Degnan-Spang said it was difficult to comprehend how things have changed in her community.

A few stray planks of the synthetic gray boardwalk that was just replaced last year at great expense after Tropical Storm Irene were strewn about the sand; concrete pilings that used to support the boardwalk now stretch for a mile off to the horizon like little Stonehenges.

“It’s horrible,” she said. “It’s draining to see this. It’s surreal. I’m walking through it and saying, ‘This really is happening.’”

The day after Sandy hit the last week in October, shore towns sprang into action, hastily reassembling dunes that were diminished or washed away. Using heavy machinery, they pushed sand into large piles up against beachfront homes and businesses as a potentially destructive nor’easter approached a week later. Those temporary measures largely worked.

But the work continues. Sea Bright, the state’s narrowest barrier island, was decimated by Sandy, pummeled by waves from the ocean and flooding from the Shrewsbury River.

Sea Bright, Bradley Beach, Ocean Grove and other towns have pushed huge piles of sand into the center of their beaches, to be spread around and used to shore up gaps the storm exposed. Others have pushed it into makeshift cliffs at the edge of damaged homes.

Sea Bright and neighboring Monmouth Beach lost a combined total of a half-million cubic yards of beach sand, according to Jon Miller, a professor of ocean engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology. That would be enough to cover the field at MetLife Stadium — where the New York Jets and Giants play — with a pile that would extend 100 feet past the top of the arena, he said.

Not all the sand is lost forever. At least some of it accrues and builds up around other beaches, actually widening them — a concept built in to replenishment projects, which include “feeder beaches” designed to erode and nourish other parts of the shoreline.

Degnan-Spang predicted she and her extended family would be back on the sand soon.

“The drive is going to be to get back on the beach next summer, no matter what it looks like,” she said. “We don’t go on vacation because we live in the most beautiful spot in the world. We all go to the beach; it’s what summer is. It’ll come back; it’ll just be different.”

___

Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>