Help ar­rives for Sandy-wrecked towns, oth­ers re­sist sand dunes

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY WAYNE PARRY

TOMS RIVER, N.J. | In one of the largest beach re­pair projects in U.S. his­tory, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has be­gun dump­ing so much sand on a stretch of the New Jersey shore that it could fill a foot­ball sta­dium more than five times over.

Yet even this $128 mil­lion project isn’t enough to re­pair the dam­age Su­per­storm Sandy did to the Jersey shore. And not ev­ery­one wants the help.

Few places in New Jersey suf­fered worse in Sandy than the Ort­ley Beach sec­tion of Toms River. A his­tor­i­cally vul­ner­a­ble part of the shore whose beaches are prone to worse-than-nor­mal ero­sion, the com­mu­nity was dev­as­tated by the 2012 storm. And nearly five years later, things re­main far from nor­mal.

The neigh­bor­hood, a pop­u­lar mix of year­round and sum­mer va­ca­tion homes, re­mains pock­marked by va­cant lots and the wooden frames of half-built houses.

But help is fi­nally here: On the beach where the for­mer po­lice chief watched in awe as walls of wa­ter flowed across the bar­rier is­land from the ocean to the bay, a long-awaited beach re­plen­ish­ment and dune re­con­struc­tion pro­gram has fi­nally be­gun. The U.S. Army Corps of En­gi­neers be­gan pump­ing sand Mon­day from an off­shore lo­ca­tion onto Ort­ley Beach’s painfully nar­row beaches.

The work could not come a mo­ment too soon in a com­mu­nity that dubbed it­self “ground zero” of the cat­a­strophic storm, where even Bri­tain’s Prince Harry vis­ited to eye­ball the dam­age.

“I’m lov­ing it,” said Larry Hometchko, a res­i­dent who only moved back into his re­built home last week — more than four years af­ter the storm.

It’s still fairly lonely in his neigh­bor­hood, though.

“On my street, there’s only three of us,” Mr. Hometchko said.

“That’s a lit­tle de­press­ing,” his wife, Debbie, added. “But ev­ery­thing’s go­ing to be new again when it all gets re­built, so that’s the light at the end of the tun­nel.”

The Army Corps says it even­tu­ally will pump enough sand ashore to fill MetLife Sta­dium in East Ruther­ford, New Jersey, where the NFL’s Giants and Jets play, five and a half times.

The project to widen beaches and build pro­tec­tive sand dunes spans a 14-mile stretch of the Jersey shore that saw Sandy’s worst dam­age. It in­cludes Man­tolok­ing, which was cut in two by the storm that carved a new in­let across the bar­rier is­land, and dam­aged or de­stroyed vir­tu­ally ev­ery one of the bor­ough’s 521 homes.

And it in­cludes the largest pock­ets of re­sis­tance to the dune project: Bay Head, where res­i­dents are su­ing to block the dunes, claim­ing the $5 mil­lion of their own money they spent on a rock wall of­fers bet­ter pro­tec­tion, and Point Pleas­ant Beach, where the pri­vately owned Jenk­in­son’s Board­walk op­poses dunes that would re­duce its prime beach ter­ri­tory. Both those towns re­main mired in lit­i­ga­tion, as do some scat­tered cases on Long Beach Is­land.

A sim­i­lar re­volt in Mar­gate, just south of At­lantic City, died when two law­suits chal­leng­ing the project failed, in­clud­ing one that raised fears that pud­dles on the sand be­hind newly built dunes could breed mos­qui­toes that would spread the Zika virus.

Bob Martin, New Jersey’s en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion com­mis­sioner, said 128 ease­ments re­main to be ac­quired be­fore work can be com­pleted ev­ery­where, 53 of which are in lit­i­ga­tion. While prais­ing those who signed vol­un­tar­ily, Mr. Martin sin­gled Bay Head out for spe­cial crit­i­cism, say­ing the wealthy en­clave re­ally wants to keep out­siders off its sand.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Hur­ri­cane Sandy dev­as­tated the New Jersey shore in 2012. The U.S. Army Corps of En­gi­neers be­gan pump­ing sand Mon­day onto Ort­ley Beach. This sec­tion of shore is prone to worse-than-nor­mal ero­sion.

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