TOMS RIVER – A long-awaited project to replenish dunes and widen the beach will likely see a bid awarded January 15, a step that officials said could mean nonstop dredging and construction on the barrier island thereafter.
Toms River Councilman George Wittmann said it is unclear as to which street contractors would start on, as the bid process allowed each bidder to name where they would start and how they’d proceed. The project is for the entire length of the barrier island, save for a portion of Island Beach state park, and stretches from the Manasquan Inlet to South Seaside Park.
The Corps received three bids for the project, ranging from $128.8 million to $178.4 million. Expected to begin this spring, the work would create 25-foot tall dunes and 200-foot-wide beaches.
Wittmann, giving remarks during Toms River Township’s annual reorganization meeting, said the Army Corps of Engineers dune project would be a defining one for the year ahead, and one that could bring necessary protection to the barrier island and the mainland, which saw much destruction from Superstorm Sandy.
He said the council, mayor and administrators pushed hard to expedite the project, though met with roadblocks such as litigation elsewhere along the project and a hold-up for easements.
“We’re all past this now… and we can look forward to this,” Wittmann said. In 2013 the township had secured its easements from the many property holders along the barrier island neighborhoods of the northern beaches, Normandy Beach and Ortley Beach, often having to track down members of beach associations.
Councilwoman Maria Maruca said the contract parameters mean the winning bidder has to start work within 90 days of the bid opening.
“Then we should be full speed ahead,” said Maruca, whose ward includes beachfront Toms River neighborhoods. “I know we’ve been hearing about it but we’re really close to the finish line and I’m looking forward to the press conference announcing bids have been awarded.”
“I think it’s the most important project for 2017 and we’ve talked about it for four years and it’s finally on the cusp of being improved,” Wittmann said.
He warned though that dredging and other large-scale equipment necessary for the project will likely be a 24-hour operation resulting in noise and some beach closures throughout the construction period.
“We are all now just waiting for the dredge boats to get down there and through their sand on the beach” Wittmann said. “They’ll be pumping sand and there will be bulldozers and the next step will be hearing about complaints over engine noise.”
However, Wittmann said ultimately these things will result in protections that weren’t there before, and would be maintained by the Corps every five years.
“At the end of the day, we’ll have a 250-foot barrier that isn’t there now,” said the councilman. “And that will do a number of things, including providing the protection for barrier island and the shore communities on the mainland side of Toms River and other towns. It’s a critical project and I’m glad that we’re seeing it get through.”