Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Nesting birds unlikely in Strathmere’s north end, but beach fill start still up in the air
Written by Columb HigginsWednesday, January 14, 2015 05:31 am
STRATHMERE – Mayor Richard Palombo said Monday that the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is willing to relax permit restrictions for a planned beach replenishment project in Strathmere, saying it is unlikely that birds will nest there this year.
That could mean the project will be able to start on the hard hit north end sooner than planned.
The Army Corps of Engineers plans to mobilize dredges for the Great Egg Harbor to Townsends Inlet Project in March, and beach replenishment is set to start in Strathmere in April. But the project will start on Vincent Road and move south through Whale Beach and Sea Isle City. The hard hit north end would not receive sand until the fall, according to the plan, because of beach nesting birds there.
Palombo said the township had approached the DEP about allowing for a waiver so that beach replenishment can start sooner on the north end. At a recent meeting, DEP officials said they would sign off on a waiver, since there is no beach on Strathmere’s north end for birds to nest, he said.
“The likelihood of having piping plovers nest there, even on the eastern side near the ocean, is pretty minimal,” Palombo said.
That does not mean the Army Corps will change its current plan, however.
“There are no guarantees anything will be changed,” Palombo said. “We will talk to them to have them take it into consideration. I’m ecstatic it’s even being considered.”
A meeting between municipal officials, the DEP and the Army Corps is planned in a few weeks at the Tuckahoe firehouse. Palombo said he hopes to make the township’s case then.
The DEP has relaxed permit restrictions for past beach replenishment projects in Strathmere. Similar to this year, the beaches on the north end were so eroded then that the birds’ habitat was gone.
The Army Corps awarded a $57.6 million contract to Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co. of Illinois for the Great Egg Harbor to Townsends Inlet Project in early November. The Corps plans to use one dredge for Ludlam Island and another dredge for the south end of Ocean City.
The dredge for southern Ocean City will mobilize in April and start pumping sand in May, according to a December interview with Army Corps Philadelphia District spokesman Ed Voigt.
This will be the first of many beach replenishment projects to come for this area. The initial fill will be entirely paid for by the federal government, due to emergency funds appropriated by Congress after Hurricane Sandy.
Work in the southern end of Ocean City, from 34th Street to Corson’s Inlet, will involve construction of a dune approximately 13 feet above sea level, with a width at the top of 25 feet, and beach extending 100 feet from the seaward base of the dune.
On Ludlum Island, which includes Strathmere and Sea Isle, the dune will be about 15 feet high and the beach 50 feet wide.
Strathmere’s north end was hard hit this year, with the beach mostly eroded and waves crashing on the rock wall there. Upper Township made an emergency declaration last July because of the loss of beach.
Strong winds and high tides took 100 feet of sand from beaches there as Hurricane Arthur passed to the east during the July 4, 2014 weekend. The dunes have been swept away and a beach entrance to the state park area was closed because of erosion last summer.
Homeowners in the area have pleaded for help as waves break just a few yards from there homes.
With the emergency declaration in place, Upper Township officials said they can move quickly to truck in sand if a storm looks like it could breach the rock wall and threaten public and private property.