Shorebeat has learned that the anticipated northern Ocean County beach replenishment project that was supposed to have begun in 2022 may not see the light of day for some time. The project is considered “suspended” according to an update from the state Department of Environmental Protection that was sent to local officials last Friday and obtained by Shorebeat.
The project is aimed at maintaining and improving dunes from Point Pleasant Beach to South Seaside Park along Ocean County’s northern barrier island, with a significant portion of the work planned at re-engineering the dunes and beach berms at “trouble spots” such as Ortley Beach, which has continued to suffer significant – and costly – erosion since the initial replenishment took place more than five years ago.
“The Manasquan [Inlet] to Barnegat [Inlet] Solicitation is currently in suspension,” the DEP’s communique said. “Army Corps received a bid protest which requires them to address the issues before they can proceed further with this solicitation.”
It had been known that bids had either been rejected or otherwise problematic, but the reigning thought among officials was that the project would simply be re-bid with new specifications with a contract to be awarded soon after. That is no longer the case.
“It is expected to take a number of months to work though the required contractual process to resolve the protest,” the notice said. “At this time they do not have a good estimate as to when the project will be able to proceed.”
The company that lodged the protest was not named, however there are only two private firms that have the reasonable capacity, expertise and advanced equipment to perform a major replenishment project on the east coast: Weeks Marine, of New Jersey, and Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company of Illinois. Both companies have worked on beach replenishment projects in Ocean County between the northern island and Long Beach Island, as well as other coastal communities statewide.
Meanwhile, members of the public – especially in Ortley Beach – have been raising concerns about beach access for the 2023 summer season. While Toms River Township hired a construction firm to repair beach entrances, the beach berm itself – the portion of the sand in front of the dune where people sit and lay out their blankets – remains significantly smaller than in some past years, and the entrances are steeper. Shorebeat will explore the beach access issues in a separate story. But notwithstanding the concerns of local residents, there is little municipal governments – or even the state – can do to intervene. Formal protests of federal contracts – especially when they technically involve defense procurement procedures – are notoriously complicated and lengthy.
“We all remain hopeful a resolution can be reached in the coming months and they will be able to award a contract before the end of the year,” the state’s notice to municipalities said. “The good news is there is still a plan to move forward once the protest is resolved.”