Friday, October 24, 2008

Presidential disaster aid sought for Strathmere

By MICHAEL MILLER Staff Writer, 609-463-6712
Published: Friday, October 24, 2008

UPPER TOWNSHIP - Cape May County officials will seek a presidential disaster declaration to solve Strathmere's coastal crisis.
This island community has lost so much beachfront since Labor Day that the Atlantic Ocean threatens to swamp the north end with every high tide.

Cape May County Emergency Management Director Frank McCall said his office will be especially vigilant this weekend as a southeast storm is forecast to bring 30-knot winds to southern New Jersey.

Mayor Richard Palombo said the township on Thursday hired Agate Construction of Dennis Township to build a rock wall using boulders quarried from Pennsylvania pits. This will shore up a $250,000 steel bulkhead protecting homes at most risk of storm damage.

Township employees built a small rock wall along Neptune Avenue. The contractor will begin placing the boulders today, the mayor said.

In the meantime, McCall said he will take a regional approach to the problem. He will ask for a presidential disaster declaration that could help Strathmere and its neighboring shore towns get money through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Upper Township, Ocean City, Avalon and Sea Isle City each spent from $750,000 to $1.3 million on shore protection this year. Combined, this reflects a coastal crisis deserving of federal attention, McCall said.
McCall met Thursday with township officials and representatives from the State Police. They visited Strathmere to inspect the scope of the problem.
McCall said the changes in the past six months were staggering. Corsons Inlet State Park has virtually disappeared.
"We've lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 acres of state park that got washed into the Atlantic Ocean. Nobody really expects something like that," he said.
They drafted a report on the problem to submit to state agencies, including the Department of Environmental Protection.
"We have the interest of the DEP. We have the interest of the state Office of Emergency Management. We have the governor's attention," McCall said.
"We want to get a presidential declaration through FEMA. That's how it starts," he said.
In his 15 years in the job, McCall said Cape May County has received nine such declarations - two after blizzards and seven after severe coastal storms.
State Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, participated in Thursday's meeting.
"This is more than a beach-nourishment project. It is an emergency situation," he said. "It requires the full attention of the state and possibly the federal government as well."

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