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Beach "experiment" to begin in Long Branch

Innovative $9M replenishment starts next month

By CAROL GORGA WILLIAMS
COASTAL MONMOUTH BUREAU

The Army Corps of Engineers is expected to begin a beach renourishment project next month that will include an experimental design that officials hope will preserve the area for surfing and swimming while enhancing shore protection.

According to Daniel T. Falt, Corps of Engineers project manager, the project will begin at the beach opposite Cedar Avenue and continue about as far as the money takes them, estimated to be just under a half-mile, ending about Howland Avenue.

The project will cost more than $9 million, with more than $1 million from the state for the innovative design.

Falt said it is a small project, but two years of negotiation by the state's congressional delegation was successful in securing the federal share in years when there was not much support in Washington for beach replenishment.

"We're going to do a small section of the beach," Falt said. "We wish it could be bigger."

He said construction crews will begin to be mobilized this month, and if the schedule is honored, sand will begin to be pumped next month. The project could take three months to complete.

He said about 680,000 cubic yards would be placed on the beach in a renourishment project in a continuation of the Army engineers' long-term Sandy Hook to Barnegat Inlet project, encompassing a 21-mile span of shoreline and representing the largest beach nourishment project ever undertaken by the corps, according to a fact sheet on the corps' Web site.

"This is one small aspect of it," Falt said of that project.

Falt said the project has two noteworthy innovations.

The first is that sand-pumping equipment would be outfitted with strains and other devices, to prevent munitions that are sitting on the ocean floor from being deposited on the beach, which developed into a significant problem recently in Surf City.

Mayor Adam Schneider called that a "good thing."

The second issue involves a state Department of Environmental Protection decision to provide $1,060,800 for the experimental design, undertaken after consulting with local surfers, particularly the Surfers Environmental Alliance, that would preserve the quality of surfing in the region while also helping shore protection, said Rep. Frank J. Pallone Jr., D-N.J.

Essentially, said the DEP's David Rosenblatt, the design will create a protrusion of sand away from the shoreline. This protrusion will serve as a "feeder beach"; as the sand erodes from the feeder beach, it will settle on the main beach.

It not only will, theoretically, extend the life span of the project but also allow waves to break farther out to sea, improving surfing conditions and sparing the actual coast from a more direct battering, thereby enhancing shore protection.

Pallone said it was DEP Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson who supported investing in the new design, which, if successful, could be used in other areas of the coastline.

Surfers have maintained for years that the old, straight-line beach renourishment destroyed surfing in other locations, particularly Sea Bright where 12 years after sand was first pumped on beaches there, the sport has virtually disappeared.

Pallone said the federal money was in the form of earmarks, and it was the first federal funding in years — potentially back to the Clinton administration — for beach replenishment.

According to the DEP's Rosenblatt, who is the administrator of the Office of Engineering and Construction, the new design could extend the life of the project without creating "undesirable effects of beach fills like in other areas of Monmouth County . . . like Sea Bright where the waves that used to be good for surfing more or less disappeared."

Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken will analyze the movement of the sand and wave characteristics to see if the new design is successful in preserving recreational opportunities as well as enhancing shore protection, he said.

"We've been working with the surfing community over a number of years trying to devise a plan that might satisfy their interests and ours," Rosenblatt explained. "This seems to be a logical project design."

Pallone said he has had countless meetings over the last three years not only with surfers but with swimmers and body surfers who maintain that beach replenishment makes the beach more dangerous for swimmers and ruins the waves for surfers.

He said that after replenishment, the traditional profile is straight line from south to north, creating the sharp drop off, but with the new design there will be a more natural distribution of sand which will allow the sand to flow into the system more naturally, without the usual severe underwater dropoff.

"This is an effort to see if this can be accomplished," said Pallone. "The fact that it was an experiment, the federal government wouldn't pay for it and we had to go to the state."

Andrew Mencinsky of Surfers Environmental Alliance said his group has been working with officials for 10 years on how to improve the design of renourished beaches, in order to reduce their impact of surfing and swimming while enhancing their ability to provide shore protection.

"The design they are implementing is a compromise between the design SEA came up with and the Army Corps' design," Mencinsky said. "That design is being implemented in West End."

He said the group remains excited about the potential outcomes of the experiment in which, instead of a straight-line beach that is the same width for the entire length, creating an unnatural appearance, the beach will use about the same volume of sand and create a "feeder" beach further out to sea.

"One of the things you can look at is if there are better ways to do shore protection that involves stakeholders," said Mencinsky. "When you create a design that works fairly well for everybody, you will have a much better project for everybody with less resistance."