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NJ SIERRA CLUB: DEP LBI Dredging Dune Plan Will Not Work and Make Things Worse

Guest-opinion copyJeff Tittel, Director\New Jersey Sierra Club

The Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Coastal Engineering has launched a major project utilizing sand dredged to create a safe boat channel for Little Egg Inlet to repair beaches and dunes on southern Long Beach Island that have sustained significant erosion from storms. Oak Brook, Ill.-based Great Lakes Dock and Dredge Co. on Jan. 18 launched the $18.4 million project that is utilizing sand from the southern portion of the inlet to repair beaches and dunes in Holgate and Beach Haven. The inlet is a major thoroughfare for recreational and commercial fishing boats between southern Long Beach Island and Brigantine. The project is funded by the DEP’s Shore Protection program.

DEP is pushing another dredging project that will not work and can make things worse. The DEP project fails to deal with sea level rise or working to make our coasts more resilient. Dredging will cause bigger waves and increase water levels and storms surges causing more flooding in bay. Piling sand on the beach does not protect us from sea level rise and storm surges, especially on the Bayside. We should not be sacrificing one part of the island for another. This is not helping people who live on the Bayside. The DEP does not want to deal with climate change so these projects may not even last if built. The DEP has not addressed sea level rise and storm surges. The DEP is allowing for more development and loopholes in coastal areas putting more people and harm’s way. Opening up the channel will cause bigger waves and more bay flooding. The dunes cannot protect us from sea level rise and storm surges nor will it protect the people on Long Beach Island. Rebuilding dunes and beach replenishment will help in the short-term but is not a long-term approach to dealing with climate change. This project is a waste of money and will cause more flooding.

The DEP is also partnering with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Brigantine to pump 755,000 cubic yards of sand from the much smaller Brigantine Inlet, south of Little Egg Inlet, to repair beaches and dunes in that city that were damaged by a nor’easter in January 2016. The project will repair beaches and dunes from north of 14th Street south to Roosevelt Avenue. The Little Egg Inlet project will clear a mile-long portion of the previously marked channel that is 24 feet below mean sea level, using this sand to restore beaches in Beach Haven and Holgate on Long Beach Island. The Dredge Texas is working in conjunction with two large booster pumps to pump sand onto beaches.

Just pumping sand on the beach is a waste of money and hurts the environment. With recent storms hitting Long Beach Island, we’ve seen the replenished beach projects by the Army Corps and DEP have already failed. Unless we build dunes appropriately and restore marshes and tidal wetlands, they cannot protect our coast against beach erosion or protect property from storm surges.

 

Depending on weather, the expectation is that all work and demobilization will be completed by mid-March. In total, some 700,000 cubic yards of sand will be moved from the inlet to the beaches, with an option to move an additional 300,000 cubic yards if necessary.

The irony is that at the same time the DEP is building dunes, they are proposing more development on the coast. Dunes are good but DEP policies are a disaster waiting to happen. It is important to require dunes as we restore and rebuild our beaches, but if we don’t address climate change we are doomed. The dunes cannot protect us from sea level rise and storm surges nor will it protect the people on Long Beach Island. DEP has continued to deny climate change science and sea level rise and instead has sided with developers.

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