Modifications to Federal Dune Project Along the Jersey Coast Unlikely
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers doesn't plan on caving to beach communities along the Jersey Coast seeking to tailor its federal dune project to meet municipality's individual storm protection needs.
Studies done before Superstorm Sandy determined a uniform dune and berm system is the most cost-effective option, according to Steve Rochette, spokesman with the Army Corp's Philadelphia District.
"These projects all go through an extensive feasibility study, where we look at the economics, the environmental issues and the engineering aspects of these projects, and they're designed in order to reduce the most storm damages relative to the cost, so we have to pick the plan that's essentially the most cost-effective in order to reduce coastal storm damages, and we also have to pick the plan that works for the whole stretch," said Rochette.
Rochette explained allowing municipalities to make modification to the dune project would make it difficult to tie them all together.
"That's just from a practical standpoint," said Rochette. He added the Army Corps views the project as one area, not a collection of municipalities.
"We recognize that that's the case, but we're trying to design a plan that works for that stretch in order to reduce storm damages, so many different options would be something that would be difficult to implement," Rochette said.
Seaside Heights wants to deviate from the one-size-fits-all project, and has argued a sea wall offers a more permanent alternative to a dune that can wash away and would cost less than a dune to maintain and replenish. The Borough also has contended it's boardwalk and amusements make it a unique tourist attraction. Having visitors walk up and over 120 foot dune just to get to the water also would hurt tourism, officials have said.
Rochette conceded there is some room for compromise. Influence from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for a modification to the project would be taken into consideration.
"They're our non-Federal sponsor and our partner on these projects across Jersey, and so they could certainly come to us and request something, but I haven't heard of anything like that having taken place," said Rochette. He pointed out such requests would require additional studies.