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Posted 1/28/2014

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By James D'Ambrosio
Public Affairs, New York District

When Hurricane Sandy barreled into New Jersey in October 2012 with 90-mph wind gusts and a ferocious storm surge, it damaged and destroyed 346,000 housing units, nearly 19,000 small businesses ($8.3 billion in losses), flooded entire communities, and severely eroded the shoreline. The coastline from Sea Bright to Manasquan in Monmouth and Ocean Counties ─ a 21-mile stretch ─ was hit especially hard, losing approximately 5 million cubic yards of sand and damaging residential and commercial structures, leaving heavily populated coastal communities and infrastructure vulnerable to future storms.

As part of recovery efforts, the Army Corps of Engineers has been repairing and restoring beach berms through four sand-replenishment contracts since summer 2013. This extensive erosion-control repair and restoration project will, at completion, place nearly 8.2 million cubic yards of sand dredged from an approved offshore borrow area.

The 100-foot-wide berm ─ approximately 12’ above sea level and spanning the entire length of the project ─ provides significant coastal -storm risk management. Sea Bright to Manasquan is part of a larger effort by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers North Atlantic Division placing nearly 26 million cubic yards of sand throughout the Northeast, restoring previously-constructed beach erosion control and coastal-storm risk-management projects impacted by Sandy.

The immense scope of work for the Sea Bright to Manasquan project ─ divided into four contracts totaling $109.2 million ─ is pumping sand onto nearly 18 miles of shoreline with completion planned for spring 2014. A final project, a three-mile stretch from Elberon to Loch Arbour, NJ, is in the planning stage.

Jenifer Thalhauser, project manager, New York District, Coastal Restoration and Projects Branch, oversees the initiative and is keenly aware of its importance, noting: “It is both economically and socially important to minimize the loss of New Jersey’s beaches and to preserve coastal resources through construction and maintenance of our beach-erosion-control projects. Beaches are often the last line of defense between the ocean and coastal communities.”

The protection provided by a wider beach berm cannot be overstated: constructed berms help absorb and dissipate energy from large waves and storm tides, helping manage the coastal-storm risk to coastal communities. During a hurricane, the storm surge, an offshore rise of water pushed ashore as a hurricane makes landfall, is often the most destructive ─ and deadly ─ part of the storm. In such situations, restored beaches reduce how far inland sea water travels, limiting flooding and damage to smaller areas closer to shore. In general, communities with projects in place suffered less damage from Sandy.

All work is performed in ways that maximize safety and minimize inconvenience to residents. In cooperation with state and local authorities, only 1,000-foot sections of beach are closed where construction is active. Once a section is complete, it is reopened to the public and work moves to the next area. Sites are enclosed with orange safety fencing and staffed 24/7 during sand placement on the beach. Each 1,000-foot parcel takes approximately 7-10 days to complete.

This current 100 percent federally-funded initiative to repair damage done by Hurricane Sandy and restore the project to its original design template is being accomplished in conjunction with the non-federal sponsor, the State of New Jersey, and the Department of Environmental Protection. Other federal stakeholders include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, each enforcing requisite safeguards in relation to their mission.

The repair and restoration work is made possible through two standing authorities: The Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies Act (Public Law 84-99) permitting the Corps to restore projects to pre-storm conditions, and the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 (Public Law 113-2/Sandy Relief Bill), authorizing the Corps to restore previously-constructed projects to their original design. Public Law 113-2/Sandy Relief Bill allows placement of an additional 3 million cubic yards of sand project-wide, creating beaches much wider than before Sandy ─ a welcome development for coastal residents and business owners who have and still are suffering significant hardships.

While it is the hopes of all that a similar catastrophe may not occur for many decades to come, more frequent and severe storms are predicted in the future, highlighting the importance of erosion-control and coastal-storm risk reduction. The Army Corps of Engineers, New York District ─ within its jurisdiction ─ is committed to maintaining New Jersey’s coastline reducing risk from natural disasters.

► Sea Bright to Monmouth Beach: Nearly 2.2 million cubic yards of sand placed through a $25.6 million contract with Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. Completed November 2013.

► Long Branch: Active construction placing 3.3 million cubic yards of sand through a $40 million contract with Manson Construction Co. Planned completion: Spring 2014.

►Belmar to Manasquan Inlet: Active construction placing 1.5 million cubic yards of sand through a contract of $25.3 million with The Dutra Group. Planned completion: Winter 2014.

►Asbury to Avon: Work begins winter 2014. Nearly 1.2 million cubic yards of sand placed through an $18.3 million contract with Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. Planned completion: Spring 2014.

New York District sand Sea Bright to Manasquan