Monday, October 20, 2008

Steel wall fails to stop floods in Strathmere

Steel wall fails to stop floods in Strathmere

Published: Monday, October 20, 2008

UPPER TOWNSHIP - On the road, just beyond the porch of his mother's home and a recently constructed bulkhead paid for by neighborhood residents, Chip Boardman was standing under a cloudless sky up to his knees in water.
The Strathmere section of Upper Township, as well as parts of Sea Isle City and Ocean City, were flooded Sunday after a storm off the coast caused havoc at the arrival of high tide before noon.

An area hit hardest was the northern end of Strathmere, where Boardman and several other residents have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a retention wall in an effort to protect their homes from what is becoming an ever-increasing problem.

"Right now," Boardman said in a phone interview Sunday. "I'm standing in the middle of the road and I'm looking in every direction and the water is continuous, flowing everywhere."

To protect Boardman's home as well as those of five neighbors on Seaview Drive, residents paid to have a steel retention wall built to stave off high tides and stormy seas. At about $1,000 per foot, Boardman said his mother paid close to $150,000 to protect her home, with nearby residents paying similar totals for theirs.

But with Sunday's storm, with 20-mph winds and little else, it appears as though the wall may not be enough.
"We had to go through great expense to put the wall in and still, the whole island is pretty bad," he said. "The storm has made (the water) exceptionally high and unfortunately, that water coming in from the north end is going to keep coming in."

Upper Township Mayor Richard Palombo said Sunday's floods posed a significant threat to the area's infrastructure and that emergency crews were called in with tons of dirt and gravel to help out.

But as they started unloading it, he said, they found that it was being washed away too quickly, and eventually the emergency crews went back and brought in trucks full of rocks and stones to form a more effective barrier.

"We acted quickly and put in an emergency bulkhead and brought in harder rock and other material to protect the infrastructure," Palombo said. "This was not a major storm. The wind was blowing at maybe 20 miles per hour, sustained, but not enough that you'd expect this."

This is just the latest chapter in the island's flooding problems, he said.

About a year and a half ago a major section of state-owned beach that served as a large sand barrier and habitat for wildlife was washed away in a Mother's Day storm. The area of beach, with its dunes and shrubbery, acted as a natural barrier until it disappeared.

But since then, Palombo said, there have only been patchwork emergency efforts.

"We have been working with the state continuously for the last eight or nine months to get a beach replenishment," Palombo said of replacing the washed away beach on the coast. "I don't think putting sand on the inland side is the answer. We've not had two emergency sandfills that have completely washed away along with the land that used to be there."
Since that first storm, he said, things have gotten progressively worse.
What the island needs, he said, is help from the state and the Department of Environmental Protection.

Broadman said an issue he has with the retention wall is that it was built to follow property lines. As a result, he said, there are odd angles where water is able to get in and collect.
What should have happened but couldn't because state law would not allow it, he said, is the wall should have been designed and built in a way that just works better.

Palombo said his office will be in touch with the state tomorrow to try and expedite the process of finding a solution to the problem.
Palombo no one even expected anything like this to happen.
"It's been sunny all day," he said. "I don't know if anyone had any heads-up that this was happening. We had no rain, no nothing."

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