As beach replenishment projects on Ocean County’s northern barrier island slowly get off the ground in some locations, one town is worried that delays could have a serious impact on its economy.
Beach replenishment in Seaside Heights was initially scheduled to begin in November or December, leading borough officials to remove beach access points in preparation. But in recent days, the schedule has become less clear, with some saying the project could be undertaken in the borough in the late spring or even summer months.
“I sympathize with the contractor that has the bid – the weather hasn’t been great, and equipment breaks down. But now they’re talking about the spring,” said Mayor Anthony Vaz. “Our community cannot do this – it’s impossible to do. It will destroy our community, our ramps are down.”
Vaz and fellow borough officials say they have been pleading with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to keep their word and either complete the project before or after the summer season. While replenishment operations shut down just 1,000 feet of shoreline at a time, in Seaside Heights, the boardwalk presents a complication in that the walkways which lead to the sand must be removed, Vaz said.
Complicating matters further, officials said, is the fact that a new governor was sworn into office just this week, leaving the leadership at the state Department of Environmental Protection in limbo as a new commissioner is up for a consent vote and policymakers may not yet have been appointed.
“If they do this project in the summer months, we may as well pack up our bags and leave,” said Vaz. “Our community will be destroyed.”
“Our town has been redeveloped the last couple of years as a nice destination for families to visit,” he continued. “Nobody is going to come if they can’t get on our beaches.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ website now states Seaside Heights will receive replenishment sand in “spring 2018.” A spokesman for the Corps could not be immediately reached for comment.