By John Burton
SEA BRIGHT – Plans are in the works to repair the borough’s sea wall and fill in the 1,000-foot gap in the downtown business district.
The wall is a vital protection barrier for the beachfront community.
Borough and state officials say plans have been developed. The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will be the lead agency to repair the damaged portions of the wall and to construct a
1,000-foot piece where no wall existed. That, they say, will provide protection for the borough’s Ocean Avenue business district and municipal facilities.
The wall, which runs the length of most of the borough, separates the beach area from Ocean Avenue and other properties. The wall has taken a beating over years from storms, with gaps developing in it that contribute to the chronic flooding that affects Ocean Avenue during storms, particularly those that occur during high tides.
Tidal surges accompanying Super Storm Sandy in October 2012 had a profound impact on the area without a sea wall, severely damaging and destroying many of the area’s structures. Many property owners there are still trying to rebuild.
The issue of the sea wall was brought up during Gov. Chris Christie’s town hall meeting on Thursday, Feb. 20, in Middletown’s Port Monmouth section, when a Sea Bright resident asked Christie about plans for the wall.
The governor said there were plans to address the issue. “We have a plan to deal with the entire coast of the state” from the Bayshore area of Monmouth County to Cape May, in hopes of offering future protection – with much of it relying building more dunes.
Joseph Verruni, Sea Bright’s borough administrator, said there have been discussions with DEP Commissioner Bob Martin and his staff. “They have been very responsive to our request to fill in the gap that exists in our sea wall.”
DEP representatives have been working with the borough engineering firm and have drafted a design for the future project, DEP spokesman Bob Considine, said in an email.
The issue, Martin acknowledged at the town hall meeting, is “we need to look where to get the money” for such a project.
“It will certainly be a great benefit to the community to get this done,” Mayor Dina Long said this week.
“It’ll be a blessing,” added Borough Councilman C. Read Murphy.
Long and Considine said one possible funding source may be the Community Development Block Grant program, run by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). That program has a provision for community development needs where there doesn’t appear to be other resources available, Considine said.
Another possible funding source may be the state’s Shore Protection Fund, he said.
The project, which will be funded entirely by state and/or federal government, is tentatively scheduled to begin late in the year.
It is still too preliminary to estimate its cost, Considine said.
“Having the wall here would definitely help,” said Sandy Skurat, a 12-year resident of Sea Bright.
In addition to building the proposed portion, “there are parts in the wall that certainly can be repaired,” Skurat said.
“I think with the normal storms we get, it’ll help,” said Alice Gaffney, who owns and operates Alice’s Kitchen at 1108 Ocean Ave. “But, I don’t think anything in the world would have helped with Sandy.
“As far as protecting us, it’s in God’s hands,” she said.
The sea wall dates back to 1947, according to Murphy. It was constructed in sections to protect the area and the rail line that formerly ran along Ocean Avenue. The gap in the wall occurred because in that location at the time of construction, the Octagon Hotel, a large beachfront resort, was located there, the councilman said.