Beach replenishment will start soon in the first Jersey shore community to rebuild its boardwalk after Superstorm Sandy, part of a near statewide blitz to widen and elevate beaches to the shape they were in before the killer storm hit.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will begin work in Spring Lake in mid-February and in Belmar in mid-March.
Both lost their heavily used boardwalks in the storm. Belmar was the first in the state to rebuild after the storm, and Spring Lake wasn't far behind.
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That work is part of an intense effort to restore beaches in Monmouth County. Similar work was done in parts of Ocean and Atlantic counties last year, and scheduled jobs for 2014 include other parts of Ocean and Cape May counties, said Chris Constantino, a project manager with the state Department of Environmental Protection's coastal engineering bureau.
Unlike most beach replenishment projects, in which state or local governments must contribute some of the cost, the federal government is paying for 100 percent of this beach restoration under Sandy relief funding approved by Congress.
"After Sandy came through, there was a great amount of damage done," said Jen Thalhauser, an official with the Army Corps. "It lost a lot of sand. We are here to repair and restore it."
The process involves dredge ships sucking up huge quantities of sand from an offshore site near Sandy Hook and transporting it to locations off coastal areas to be replenished. The ships connect to hoses and pipes that pump the sand ashore, where it is screened by huge metal baskets as a slurry of sand and water flows onto the beaches. The water drains off, and new sand is left behind, increasing the size of the beach.
The projects will widen beaches to 140 to 250 feet and will create peak sand elevations of 10.3 feet that gradually slope down to the water's edge.
Critics in Congress say the projects are wasteful and note they must regularly be redone as tides erode the sand. But shore communities note that the stated purpose of the work is to protect property and lives along the coast, citing the 71 deaths caused by Sandy in New Jersey.
Last summer, Constantino said, replenishment was carried out in Sea Bright and Monmouth Beach. Work is underway now in Long Branch, as well as a stretch of the Monmouth County coast from Asbury Park to Avon. Manasquan's section of the work, begun last fall, should be done within the next few days.
All told, the Monmouth County work will cost about $146.2 million. Figures for other counties were not immediately available.
In Ocean County, Constantino said, parts of Long Beach Island were replenished last year, including Surf City, the Brant Beach section of Long Beach Township and Harvey Cedars. Additional work on Long Beach Island should resume this year, though an exact start time has not been determined.
In Atlantic County, Atlantic City and Ventnor were recently finished.
In Cape May County, the northern part of Ocean City was done last year, and work in Cape May is due to wrap up within days. The southern half of Ocean City is due to be replenished later this year.