As Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration began lobbying the federal government for funding to repair beaches decimated in the Feb. 2021 nor’easter, Toms River officials said the township would ensure the beaches would be in shape for the summer season regardless of whether help is provided.
Ortley Beach was one of several communities which the state Department of Environmental Protection said, in a document released Tuesday, suffered “major” damage as a result of the storm. The official report from the DEP stated that Ortley Beach suffered “up to 90-feet of sloped erosion, 6 to 8 feet in height.” The same letter noted “wave runup/tide to the upper beach/dune” and “vertical dune scarping up to 10-feet in height, plus additional damage to dune, crossovers, and fencing from Fourth Avenue south through Ninth Avenue.
“Scarping” is a term that refers to the cliff-like drops that are carved by waves into a block of beach sand. They can range from just inches in a normal high tide to dozens of feet during major storms.
“While we’re hoping for that, we’re planning for that not to happen,” said Township Engineer Robert Chankalian. “If that doesn’t work, we’re working on bringing in sand, working on the crossovers and all of the mats.”
Sand may need to be trucked in to Ortley Beach if an offshore dredger is not authorized and funded to perform emergency replenishment. The township may also have to repair several beach entrances that were destroyed, including post fencing, snow fencing and Mobi-Mat matting that creates a non-slip surface for crossing the dunes.
Shawn M. LaTourette, acting NJDEP commissioner, penned a letter Monday that was sent to the Philadelphia and New York district offices of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Ocean County is within the jurisdiction of the Philadelphia district.
“On behalf of Governor Philip D. Murphy, I write to kindly request that USACE provide the State of New Jersey with immediate financial and technical support to enable recovery of those coastal areas that suffered major storm damage,” wrote LaTourette.
The state asked that the Army Corps immediately prioritize nine areas that were declared to have experienced “major” damage to receive emergency funding for repairs. Ortley Beach and Bay Head are the only two island communities among the nine locations statewide.
If such funding is not readily available, the state asked the Corps to “seek the appropriation necessary to implement recovery efforts in these areas.” The state further requested that the work be completed “by or before the end of the second quarter of 2021.”
“If they do not have a positive outlook for Toms River, we have a backup plan ready to go,” said Councilwoman Maria Maruca, whose district includes the entire barrier island portion of Toms River. “We will expend the money to make sure our beaches are operational and safe for the summer season.”
Chankalian said his office is keeping in regular contact with the NJDEP’s coastal engineer office, which is located in town.