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Barrier Island Mayors, Ocean County Create Consortium to Take on Flooding

Flooding on Ocean County's northern barrier island, Oct. 28, 2021. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Flooding on Ocean County’s northern barrier island, Oct. 28, 2021. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Mayors of nine barrier island communities plus Ocean County have formed a consortium that will regularly meet to discuss ways to mitigate flooding on the island, plus upgrade infrastructure and apply for cooperative grants to help solve the nagging issue, several officials told Shorebeat.

The group of mayors include all of the barrier island municipalities from Point Pleasant Beach to South Seaside Park, as well as the county, all of which have formally voted to join what has become known as the Flood Mitigation Consortium. All of the towns involved have experienced flooding issues – including “sunny day” flooding – in recent years, and have engaged in numerous projects including the raising of streets, installation of tide backwash valves on outfall pipes, and the construction of wave attenuation systems in waterways.

The group of officials, however, have not always found the same level of cooperation or permitting allowances. In Mantoloking, for example, local storm drains were allowed to be hooked into a pumping system installed by the state along Route 35 to keep roads clear, while other towns were never given that option. In Seaside Park, a project to expand the width of the beach berm along the bayfront and create a “living shoreline” natural reef has been held up by federal authorities, while Lavallette had a smaller-scale project approved. Brick and Toms River were successful in obtaining state grants to raise streets in the Normandy Beach neighborhood, which is split between the two towns, while other municipalities have been less successful in obtaining similar grants to harden infrastructure against rising levels of water in the bay.

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The point of the consortium, several mayors said, is to work as a group to not only exchange ideas, but band together to obtain funding through a shared services agreement that would allow coordination and the ability to put the full weight of local governments and the county together toward applying for wide-scale permits, approvals, and grants to carry out anti-flooding projects.

“Our town was the first town to pass that resolution, and once every town passes that resolution it will be passed to the state for funding,” said Seaside Park Mayor John Peterson. “Ocean County itself has now joined us as a tenth entity, so they are a party to it.”

Flooding in the Normandy Beach neighborhood, Jan. 2021. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Flooding in the Normandy Beach neighborhood, Jan. 2021. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

“Basically, we’ve come together because we have a lot of flooding on the barrier island and the bayside,” said Brick Township Mayor Lisa Crate, who attended a meeting with her fellow mayors to map out the mission of the consortium. Brick, like most island communities, has since formally passed a resolution to join the consortium.

“What we want to do, so one town isn’t holding the full cost of mitigation, is to look into how we can come together to mitigate some of the flood issues,” Crate said.

According to Peterson, the group has already held its first meeting where priorities were discussed.

“We talked about the impact on tourism, home values and how this impacts everyone coming to the Shore,” said Peterson. “There probably is not one avenue itself, but there is a lot together we can do.”

Seaside Park Councilman Joe Connor said such a collective alliance should not only be more likely to receive funding for mitigation projects since the state looks favorably on shared services agreements, but will allow the towns to coordinate how to best deal with flooding issues on an island-wide scale that will also include input from mainland portions of some towns affected by similar flood issues.

Flooding on Ocean County's northern barrier island, Oct. 28, 2021. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Flooding on Ocean County’s northern barrier island, Oct. 28, 2021. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

“Now, nine equals one,” said Connor, referring to the number of towns that have become part of the alliance. “At one time, there were nine towns each going their own way. All of these towns have the same issue that we do. I love shared services and the state does too.”

The group will now hold regular meetings – barrier island mayors have done so informally for years – and leverage their respective engineering staffs to put together holistic proposals to combat flooding and work with the state and federal government to introduce wide-scale projects to the area.

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