Two of the Jersey shore towns hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy in October will soon be protected by a steel sea wall.
Mantoloking and Brick have received federal and state approval for the wall that will be covered by sand and form the base of a makeshift dune system. Work is expected to begin this fall.
"Wouldn't it be great to drive the metal in by the first anniversary of this storm?'' asked Mantoloking spokesman Chris Nelson. ``It might take a little more time, but it will happen.''
The steel wall will extend 16 feet above the beach and reach 32 feet below the ground to keep it firmly anchored. The metal will not be visible because of the sand covering it.
The wall will run for the entire length of Mantoloking and neighboring Brick Township and cost about $40 million, Nelson said.
It is meant as a short-term protective measure, to be complemented by an extensive beach widening and dune construction project being planned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The federal government will pay 80 percent of cost of the steel wall, with the state paying the remainder. The towns' only expense will be to keep it covered with sand.
Mantoloking also hired an appraiser Tuesday to determine the fair market value of land the borough is threatening to go to court and seize for the beach replenishment project.
Officials also say the reconstruction of Route 35 through the Ocean County community is due to begin Monday. Mayor George Nebel said he is dreading ``a terrible nine months of gridlock'' from the work, and said he is trying to get the state Department of Transportation to delay its start until the Tuesday after Labor Day.
There are about 128 oceanfront homeowners whose permission is needed for the beach work. All but five have signed easements, legal permission for the government to access their land to do the work, borough spokesman Chris Nelson said. The borough must pay fair compensation for the land it acquires for the project.
In April, Mantoloking hired a lawyer to represent it in eminent domain cases. Nelson said the borough plans to go to court within a few weeks, barring a last-minute change of heart among the holdouts.
The work is desperately needed in this wealthy seaside enclave, which saw every one of its 521 homes damaged in the Oct. 29 storm, with scores destroyed. A resolution authorizing the hiring of an appraiser says the protective shore project is ``essential to the survival and long-term viability of the borough.''
The storm cut the barrier island borough in half, opening a new inlet between the ocean and Barnegat Bay. Filling in that breach and rebuilding Route 35 along the shore took a massive emergency construction project.
And Mantoloking lives in fear of the next storm. Its public works crews have bulldozed large walls of sand into makeshift dunes that residents hope will hold out against a storm that hits before a long-term protective system can be put in place.
"We are sitting pretty exposed until the sheet metal comes in,'' Nelson said, even though Mantoloking's beachfront sand piles are higher than those of its neighbors.