During Hurricane Sandy, homes along the Forked River Beach were inundated with an ocean that had become one with the Barnegat Bay. Stones designed to prevent beach erosion were lifted and thrown. Concerns that residents had regarding the ever-changing shoreline had become a reality.
“Of course in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, these concerns have been accelerated. But we emphasize to the community that even before Sandy, there was a need to better understand and address this issue,” Pat Doyle said during a presentation to the township Committee with Lacey resident Barry Bendar.
More than 58 feet of beach have been lost in the last 15 years, said Doyle, who has watched the shoreline erode for years. Nearly 50 percent of the beach has become part of the bay.
Doyle questioned, “How well have we protected our investment over the past 20 years?”
The Forked River Beach was initially established in 1954 as a private beach club with a clubhouse, sandy beach, roped off swimming area, certified lifeguards and an in ground pool, Doyle said.
After the developer filed for bankruptcy, the township purchased the beach in 1990 with two bonds totaling $2.65 million — the largest capital purchase in the history of Lacey, she said.
“At the time of purchase, the township was well aware that the beach was eroding,” she said.
In 1995, a riprap stonewall was buried 1,800 linear feet along the shoreline, but above the mean high water line, she said. Sand was placed over the riprap. The project’s total cost was $150,000 plus a $90,000 authorized engineering fee.
“Sadly, the erosion continued,” she said.
In 1995, there was approximately 118 feet of beach. In 2010, only 60 feet remained, she said. And by 1998, the sand that initially covered the riprap had washed away, leaving the stone exposed and forcing the beach to be closed for swimming.
Approximately 2.5 to 3.5 feet of beach were lost per year over a 17-year period, according to a formula developed by a neighbor of Doyle’s with a PhD in Chemical Engineering. The formula was based on the depth of lots and found credible by Marine Geomorphologist Dr. Stewart Farrell of the Stockton Coastal Research Center, she said.
'There are Options'
The issue causes hazardous water access, a loss in tax revenue, threatens property value and increases township liability.
“Bear in mind that erosion increases the chance of storm damage not only to homes but also to the infrastructure,” she said.
As a result of Sandy, there were two gas main leaks on Beach Boulevard, directly behind the beach, she said. And the riprap was lifted by the bay and became “flying missiles.” The stone was found on the beach, in yards and even in a neighbor’s pool.
Doyle is currently displaced due to the damage the storm surge caused to her home, which is located right off the beach.
“Because of these and other concerns, people on the beach have come up with their own homemade solutions, like putting steps over the rip-rap,” she said. “The homemade solutions are not the answer. The township must step up to the plate and develop and effective plan.”
As part of the Forked River Beach Preservation Committee, Doyle, Bendar and four others met with experts in the field from the Barnegat Bay Partnership, American Littoral Society, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the Ocean County Soil Conservation District, Farrell, and Smith-Midland Corporation—all of which are interested in helping the township.
According to the Army Corps of Engineers, riprap must be strong enough to resist the battering action of the waves, Doyle said. The Forked River Beach is located at Barnegat Bay’s widest point.
“Accordingly, every expert that has visited the beach has stated unequivocally that, even prior to Sandy, the rock was too small for the wave energy that affects our shoreline,” she said.
The preservation group has also visited beaches in Tuckerton, Berkeley Township, Waretown and Ocean Gate to see what local municipalities are doing to address similar issues.
“What we’ve learned is that there are options,” Bendar said.
The Allen Road Beach in Berkeley is now vegetated via the free county beach grass program, and maintained as a dune, he said.
Then, there’s the Amherst Road Beach, also in Berkeley. This beach is maintained with sandy fill in front of the beach, a vertical structure to retain sand, and a groin across the river to help prevent sediment build up.
Farrell recommends a combination of these two methods, Bendar said.
According to Mayor Jason Varano, DEP funding was used for the Amherst Road Beach project, which was completed four years ago at a total cost of between $180,000 and $200,000, Bendar said.
Stabilizing the Shoreline
Moving forward, options include vegetation, sand fill, vertical structures, gabion, jetty rock and beach prisms, he said.
Representatives from the Smith Midland Corporation, a manufacturer of beach prisms, visited the Forked River Beach. Beach prisms dissipate wave energy and stop erosion while naturally accreting sand on both the front and back of the prism. The cost would be approximately $318,000.
“Although there are many ways to stabilize a shoreline, it’s part of a natural system and must be handled that way,” Bendar said. “Every beach is different, and there are no one size fits all solutions.”
There are several avenues of funding, including FEMA, Doyle said. The DEP will pay 75 percent of an approved project. IBOATNJ provides 90 percent of an approved project.
Grants can be obtained through the Barnegat Bay Partnership, which provides $10,000 annual grants, she said.
Other methods of funding include fundraising, individual and private foundation donations, Doyle said.
“On Oct. 29, our moment of truth arrived, and we were not prepared,” Doyle said. “Some people believe that there wasn’t anything you could do to prevent the damage from Sandy…in a nutshell, the areas that were mitigated fared much better in the storm than the areas that were not.”
Bendar hopes that once the shoreline is stabilized, the recreational value of the beach can be improved with potentially a picnic area, a small boardwalk and a kayak/canoe/windsurfing area. Lacey Recreation Director Jim Wioland has also indicated an interest to run programs off of the beach, he said.
“This is a long-term sustainability issue and I would like to see this project move forward,” Committeeman Sean Sharkey said. “Funding is always an issue but research has been done and hopefully we’ll get as much funding as possible.”
The presentation was the first step in a “very long” process, Sharkey said, adding that he would like to see the beach used as an alternative to the lakes.
“Lacey Township being a shore community we should really invest on our natural resource of being a shore community for the enjoyment of our residents, for its beauty, for swimming and also for revenue in the future,” Committeewoman Helen DelaCruz said.
Committeeman Gary Quinn said he’s been interested in the project for years.
“Truly it’s something that has to be addressed. There’s no doubt about it,” he said. “Knowing that we need it, the biggest issue is the money. We would have to come up with the money.”
Although funding is available, it is for shovel ready projects, he said, and Lacey is not quite there yet. But since Sandy, more funding will be made available to offset costs of damage, potentially benefiting Lacey Township.
“I think it’s something we’ll have to sit down and look at very seriously,” he said.