Seaside Heights had already set aside funding to replace its boat ramp at the north bayfront, now known as Sunset Beach. The borough would later qualify for about $72,000 in state grant funding to help offset a portion of the cost – however the true cost was unknown to officials, who agreed to pass on the state’s offer.
“One of the things they want us to do as a condition of the Green Acres grant – and I believe it is pretty standard for them, but we have to really think about it – is that they want us to do a historical fill investigation,” said Borough Administrator Christopher Vaz.
The investigation would require the borough to hire engineers to physically enter the water and probe for any objects or substances that could be buried in the sand. There have never been any pollutants or other dangerous materials found in the area, and there is no reason to believe there are, officials said. But the problem is that the borough has no record of how the area around the boat ramp was built – because it was the state itself that placed the sand there and created the portion of the “island” that now makes up the bayfront.
“In 1955, the [Department of Transportation] created the whole bayfront,” Vaz explained, as part of the new access point to the island via the Route 37 bridge. “The way it looks now is not how it looked before. The bayfront was Bay Boulevard until 1955. They filled that whole area, created the clover-leaf entrance and filled it in.”
“The problem here,” he continued, “is if the investigation comes back and there is a problem found, we then have an obligation to fix it. I don’t know if it’s worth $72,000 to do that.”
Indeed, Borough Attorney Jean Cipriani agreed that the liability risk would far outweigh the amount of the grant.
“I think for $72,000, it really isn’t worth it,” said Mayor Anthony Vaz. ” The liability would fall on us. It doesn’t make sense to approve this.”
The borough council agreed.
Christopher Vaz, the administrator, said the project will move forward with the funding that had already been set aside for the boat ramp’s replacement, however there is not yet an exact timeline on the work.
“The historical fill analysis could lead to costly unintended consequences for the borough, so for the comparatively small grant funding involved the decision was made to forego the grant,” he said.
The borough turned down a $214,875 offer of a loan from the state since the funding was already budgeted.
Boaters, for some time, have been calling on the borough to improve the ramp area. It is known to collect sand which affects the traction of vehicles, and a non-standard slope grade compared with surrounding shallow water can cause some vessels to bottom out when launching and retrieving. The new ramp would be of a standard slope and depth, with proper bulkheading.