Two Shore towns get bad news on summer dune construction

Ventnor is "about 80 to 85 percent recovered," its mayor says.

Longport lucked out. Construction of dunes on the New Jersey Shore town's beaches won't begin until the third week of September.

But Ventnor, which wants the dunes, and Margate, which fought them, will bear the brunt of disruption from the Army Corps of Engineers' beach replenishment and dune building program during the summer season.

Thousand-foot stretches of beaches will be closed at a time, and the noisy pumping of sand through snaking pipes will continue day and night.

"Not happy," said Ventnor Mayor Beth Holtzman, who noted that an earlier schedule had Ventnor  in the more palatable late summer to early fall, but that the new one straddles the Fourth of July weekend.

"Especially since we’ve always supported it," she said. "Now they've got us straight across June: June 8 to July 12. Like, really? Not good."

She said the town had requested additional consideration from the state, "because the timing is more hurtful to us." It is waiting to hear the reply.

In Margate, which is mostly dune-free and whose residents and government fought bitterly to keep the state from forcing the berm upon their flat beaches, the noisy 24-hour beach closures and construction will begin in mid-July, and last through most of September.

Margate's initial schedule announced by the DEP was June 2 to Sept. 7, so this latest schedule at least allows a peaceful June and Fourth of July.

An interim plan floated in recent weeks had Margate work delayed until mid-August, a possibility dashed by Tuesday's announcement, said Mayor Mike Becker.

"It is what it is," he said. "Maybe there will be a fourth schedule."

The Absecon Island work starts next week in Atlantic City. Earlier plans had work starting in Atlantic City and Longport at the same time and working inward. But Larry Hajna of the state's Department of Environmental Protection said a delay on the part of Weeks Marine Inc. due to rough seas in Florida meant the project would be more efficient proceeding north to south.

In addition, work in Longport shoring up its sea wall and jetties along 11th Street and Atlantic Avenue with large boulders argued for a later arrival of the dune construction. The original schedule had work completed in Longport by early July.

The $63 million project will pump 3.8 million cubic yards of sand dredged from offshore areas through a series of pipes onto the beaches of the four towns. The sand will then be fashioned into a dune system.

Following Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the coast, Gov. Christie ordered dunes along the entire 127-mile shoreline. Pockets of residents have fought him, including a costly federal court battle by Margate, which ended in defeat.

Although much of the flooding damage from Sandy was due to back bay flooding, Christie and others concluded that those areas that had dunes fared better than those that did not.

Initial construction of dunes in Margate and Longport is funded by the federal government's 2013 Sandy Relief Bill. Cost of the work in Atlantic City and Ventnor, which already have dunes, will be shared, the federal government paying 65 percent and the DEP 35 percent.

In addition to dunes and beach replenishment, the project calls for construction of public access dune crossovers, fencing, dune grass, and repair of storm water outfalls and drainage pipes.

A similar project set for northern Ocean County is scheduled to begin in hard-hit Ortley Beach soon, according to a statement from DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. That will "fulfill the Christie administration pledge to construct a coastwide system of engineered beaches and dunes," the statement said, calling that a "historic achievement."

As for the bruised feelings in Ventnor and bitterness in Margate, Hajna said the timing was not personal.

"I just don’t get New Jerseyans," he said. "This is really important."