Ocean County officials said this week that they are squarely behind the ongoing beach replenishment project on the northern barrier island despite concerns over work being completed in Seaside Heights during the tourism season.
The county government issued a press release last week, supporting Seaside Heights’ call for work in the tourism-dependent borough to be completed either before or after the summer season. The headline in a resulting article, Freeholder Joseph Vicari said, led to some blowback from the U.S. Army Çorps of Engineers, which is facilitating the project.
“We want beach replenishment,” Vicari said. “We need it, and it’s being paid for by the federal government. We’re not saying not to do it, we’re asking, ‘before you do it, consult with the local towns.’ Tourism is our key industry.”
Freeholder Director Gerry Little, of Surf City, the only freeholder to live on one of the county’s two barrier islands, said Superstorm Sandy proved the worth of replenishment.
“The people need to be understanding, too,” Little said. “It’s a temporary inconvenience for a permanent project. It takes time, it takes a lot of equipment and it’s essential to all our coastal communities in Ocean County.”
Freeholder John Bartlett said oceanfront to bayfront property makes up 35 percent of the county’s total tax base. If those properties were to be destroyed in a storm, the tax burden shifts to the remaining county residents who live inland.
“And that’s where all of our senior communities are,” Bartlett said. “It is vital to the economic foundation of Ocean County that our oceanfront is protected because that benefits everyone – not just the people who live and not just the people who go there. You’ve got to look at this thing globally – the whole picture. We are protecting the tax base of Ocean County.”
Seaside Heights officials are still waiting patiently, hopeful that the project can either be completed before the summer or after Labor Day. Because of its boardwalk, the borough has already removed the massive staircases and ramps that take beachgoers down the sand. Replenishment was scheduled to take place over the winter, but rough seas and other delays have forced the work to be pushed back to the spring. If there are any more delays, the work could, conceivably, last into the summer, officials worry.
The R.S. Weeks dredge boat is still out of service due to weather, Army Corps officials said Thursday.