An Army Corps of Engineers plan would build a berm and a 16-foot-high dune from Hereford Inlet to Cape May Inlet to reduce potential ocean-related storm damages in the Wildwoods.
The $21.8 million project would include a dune-only option in Wildwood and Wildwood Crest, but officials in those communities tell The Press of Atlantic City that they still are evaluating what the plan would mean to them.
North Wildwood Mayor-elect Patrick Rosenello said he was aware the study was being done and was pleased to see his community included in a federally funded cyclical beach replenishment plan."It's absolutely beneficial to North Wildwood," Rosenello said of the long-anticipated report.
The project is detailed in a 341-page report, more than 10 years in the making, which evaluates the condition of Five Mile Beach and the effects of past storms.
A major component of the plan is to make use of back-passing sand from the beaches in Wildwood and Wildwood Crest and then using it to create a dune and berm in North Wildwood, and a dune only in Wildwood Crest and Lower Township.
Back passing was used on the island once before, in 2012 when 96,000 cubic yards of sand was moved by the truckload from Wildwood Crest's expansive beach and placed on North Wildwood's beaches.
In addition, the new plan calls for periodic beach nourishment every four years. During a 50-year span, the cost of construction, nourishment and project monitoring is expected to cost nearly $81 million.
Costs for easements, rights of ways, relocations and dredged material disposal areas are estimated at $1.1 million and will be credited toward the state Department of Environmental Protection's cash contribution.
A public comment period is currently in effect, though no public hearings have been scheduled. Meanwhile, local officials are still evaluating the lengthy document and what it would mean to their towns.
Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. said Thursday that he wants to sit down with the Army Corps to talk about the specifics, but initially he feels the plan won't solve his community's biggest beach-related problems.
"Fix my pipes and leave my sand alone," Troiano said.
While North Wildwood loses sand during major storm events, Wildwood continues to gain beach, requiring that the city's nine outfall pipes be maintained daily.
The growing beaches mean the city's outfall pipes routinely clog with sand, sending flood waters into city streets, Pacific Avenue in particular.
"Wildwood has a persistent outfall maintenance problem due to the large influx of sand to the area," the report notes.
The Public Works Department said the depth of water levels from flooding when the outfalls are clogged is approximately 4 to 8 inches along Atlantic, Ocean and Pacific avenues in Wildwood. Daily maintenance costs about $115,000 per year.
Troiano ideally would like to have a new outfall system that collects water from city streets and feeds one large pipe.
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According to the Army Corps report, "the Wildwood shoreline has been accreting significantly from 1986 to 2003 by a rate of 24 feet per year."
The report continued, "In the long-term, the Wildwood shoreline has been accreting at a rate of 18 feet per year from 1899 to 2003" and it found "much of the sand accumulating on the Wildwood beaches is coming from Hereford Inlet and North Wildwood."
Further south, Wildwood Crest also has seen its beaches grow.
The report, for instance, shows photographs of the borough's fishing pier in the days when water still flowed beneath it and in 2003 when the now land-locked pier could no longer live up to its name.
The report found that in Wildwood Crest he shoreline has been growing "at a greater rate than even the shoreline in Wildwood . Since 1998, the shoreline in Wildwood Crest has accreted at an average rate 25.87 feet per year."
Wildwood Crest Mayor Carl Groon said Thursday that the borough has to have the plan evaluated by its professionals.
"There are a lot of questions to be asked," Groon said.
His community, like Wildwood, must maintain its outfall pipes, which have been extended several times, to keep up with the growing beach.
The borough's biggest problems are the accretion of sand, which adds to the need for costly beach maintenance and creates ponding on the beaches.
According to its report, the Army Corps evaluated several possible solutions to the issue of storm damage — from outfall extensions and seawalls to varying dune heights and permanent evacuation of the island — and came up with the berm and dune approach as the most beneficial.
"The estimated average annual benefits include storm damage reduced and local costs forgone or reduced maintenance costs from a 16 feet dune and 75 feet berm in North Wildwood with excess sand conveyed from Wildwood and an engineered 16 feet dune to supplement oceanfront protection in Wildwood, Wildwood Crest, and Lower Township," the report reads.
Now, the report is in a review period where residents can express their concerns in writing.
Army Corps spokesman Stephen Rochette said that after the public comment period, the plan would be finalized and then work would begin to obtain funding for the project.