ORTLEY BEACH – In preparation of the nor’easter season, the township built up its dunes – but a majority of those efforts washed away with the two high tides during last week’s storm.
Assistant Township Administrator Lou Amoruso said 85 percent of the oceanfront’s makeshift dunes are gone, from the January 23 Nor’easter. Some damage to walkover from boardwalk to beach occurred, but the water did not breach. He said at the January 24 council meeting that the contractor would begin reinforcing the oceanfront with new sand on January 26.
After surveying the damage in Ortley and the northern beaches of Toms River, township officials again asked for an emergency contract to dump more sand to rebuild dunes for storm protection. Previous costs have topped $1 million for the township’s emergency sand.
Previously, the township used state aid to pay for the emergency sand and again sought out state Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin to request aid for this storm.
“What you see is the result of a lot of work that we’ve done with our dozer about two weeks ago. We were able to move a lot of sand. We had a relatively mild fall, southerly wind. We were able to build dunes out past the walkovers,” Amoruso said, mentioning the slopes and heights of the dunes as well as a sandbar there, created favorable conditions ahead of the storm.
“We pulled the trigger on emergency sand to fortify the dunes and protect the boardwalk, private property and the roadway,” said Amoruso, who is also the head of the township department of public works.
He said the impact shows just how badly the federal dune project is needed and how the township only has so many resources at its disposal. Army Corps of Engineers dune replenishment project will build a dune system up to 25 feet high and widen the beach to about 200 feet, and after delays is slated to begin sometime in spring for nearly the entire barrier island.
“It’s become pretty apparent, if you think about it, this is the fifth off-season since Sandy, and every year we have a nor’easter and go through the same thing,” said Amoruso. “What it goes to show you is that, absent the Army Corps project there are scant things we can really do to protect ourselves … Whatever we do to try to fortify that small area is very inconsequential when we have a storm like this.”
Ortley Beach resident Ken Langdon said the township would be embarking on its 10th time for major repairs or outright rebuilding of the dune walkover steps, and called for the township to abandon those structures in favor of cutting a path through the dunes.
“It’s about $80,000 each time,” Langdon said. “What we have today, essentially, we had happen this exact same time, last year,” he said, referring to a previous storm in 2016. Amoruso pointed out that three days of snow in a full moon period was a different storm and effects, though, from this nor’easter.
“I think what bothers me, what I do believe as I’ve been saying for years, is that there is a lot more we could be doing to maintain the beach, and not waste time on essentially the same thing that keeps having to be redone,” Langdon said.
Township Engineer Rob Chankalian said there was some damage to the walkovers but nothing like Langdon describes, and not with that dollar amount. The pilings remain and other major components are in place. A set of stairs will need to be replaced.
“The walkovers are necessary,” said the engineer, mentioning the height of the dunes and how they’ll be maintained under the coming Army Corps of Engineers dune replenishment project. “Our dunes are very steep and it is very hard to walk down them, that is in part why we have these walkovers. The Army Corps is not going to rip them out as part of their project, they are going to integrate it in to their project.”
He said the township will wait to hear from the ACE as to where they are starting their project, before deciding what measures to take to have walkovers open for the season.