Project would extend to private clubs, miss some public beaches
The Sea Bright Borough Council may reject a federal project that would require the borough to fund a beach replenishment project that would fall short of the borough’s public beaches.
Mayor Dina Long said during the Aug. 7 council meeting the current proposal by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for sand replenishment along the Monmouth Beach and Sea Bright beachfront is unacceptable because the replenishment would mainly impact private clubs and homes along the southern coast of the borough.
The project would not extend far enough to public beaches along the central to northern coastline of Sea Bright, she said.
“Everybody is very uncomfortable with this; we feel that the state has held our toes to the fire on public access and required us to invest heavily on public access,” she said. “Yet this fill placement replaces only private beach areas behind beach clubs and homes.
“We are therefore dissatisfied with the project in its current form,” she added.
“I am not ready to say the borough is going to turn down the sand, but we are going to ask them to look at the location to see if they can’t do something about the public areas.”
Councilman Read Murphy said the current proposal from the Army Corps would cover roughly 300 to 350 yards of borough beaches, with the rest going to the beach clubs.
“We won’t even get a quarter mile out of this and it just doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
Richard Kachmar, Sea Bright borough administrator and clerk, said in an interview the borough must pay about 9 cents for every $1 the federal government spends on the project, which he estimated would cost between $1.6 million and $1.8 million. The borough would have to bond for the funds for the project.
The project is being administered by the Army Corps of Engineers in partnership with the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
The Army Corps plans to begin restoring the northern stretch of beach beginning at Cottage Avenue in Monmouth Beach and, depending on the cost of the contract for the project, would replenish sand at the public beach for only 300-350 yards.
A Monmouth Beach official took another view, saying the replenishment project has been a boon for the borough.
“From our own perspective they did a really nice job,” Monmouth Beach Administrator Gerald Chismar said of the replenishment already completed. “We are excited about [the new project] and we are hoping all systems are go.”
In February, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6th District) announced that $12.3 million had been allocated by the Army Corps. Those funds built on previous monies that funded the first half of the Monmouth Beach replenishment.
Chris Gardner, spokesman for the Army Corps, said in an interview there have been talks with Sea Bright officials.
“We are working with the town of Sea Bright to make sure that we have something that everybody can agree on and everyone can be happy with,” he said. “We are continuing to work with our stakeholders to make sure everyone is happy.” During the interview Anthony Ciorra, civil works project manager for the Army Corps, said although they are working with the borough, there are “limited options” regarding where the sand can be placed.
“We already made some adjustments to address their concerns,” he said. “Bottom line, there is a limited amount of funding available, therefore there is a limited amount of sand that can be placed on the beaches.
“We want to certainly place the sand where our partners want to see it, but there are also engineering considerations where you have to place the sand [where it] is most needed,” he added.
He went on to say the plan is to have the project go out to bid in the fall and for work to begin in November.
Kachmar said the borough is in a difficult position because it would have to bond for a project that would barely benefit the public beaches.
“Once we commit, we are stuck with paying, so one of the things we are trying to do is say, is there any way possible for the engineers to do Monmouth Beach and instead of doing behind the private clubs to just come up and do our public beach areas,” he said.
“They are private beaches and the public is allowed to walk along the water, but basically they are not public beaches,” he added. “Why are we going to use taxpayer dollars?”
Kachmar said the hope is to get the sand replenished at the peninsula lot on the east side of Ocean Avenue as well as the Anchorage lot, which is north of the Sea Bright- Rumson bridge. The borough also plans to construct a handicap accessible ramp and bathroom. “We want [Anchorage beach] to have more sand; unfortunately, the Army Corps of Engineers said we can’t do Monmouth Beach and stop,” he said. “We are trying to negotiate a way to get it done, and probably the best hope is that the Army Corps of Engineers goes back to congressional leaders and asks for more money.”
According to Murphy, “The consensus is, this borough is probably going to refuse the replenishment sand.”
While Long said a decision has not been reached on whether to reject the sand, she acknowledged Murphy’s suggestion is on the table.
“If the public areas are not addressed, it is possible we will go in the direction that Councilman Murphy suggested and not participate in this project,” she said.
“If they are going to do a replenishment, we want to make sure that some of that sand goes where it is needed.”
Ciorra said if Sea Bright were to reject the sand, it would not have an impact on the Monmouth Beach portion of the replenishment.
Kachmar said the current proposal was put out to bid for a replenishment project that would pick up where a previous replenishment ended in Monmouth Beach and proceed to Sea Bright. There are three additional options to extend farther north depending on the bids submitted.
“It starts in the middle of Monmouth Beach and it continues up the coast, shy of Tradewinds,” he said. “There is a base bid and the base bid will do as much as we can for this.
“Even with the base bid and the three options, the sand would be shy of Tradewinds,” he added. “Basically we would get no sand on our beaches.”
He went on to say there are only a handful of local companies that are equipped for the sand-dredging project, and with fuel costs rising, it is unlikely the bids would come in low enough to complete the third option.
Long said there have been three revisions of project proposal and the borough has submitted comments to the Army Corps, voicing displeasure with the current proposal.
Michael Bascom, borough chief financial officer, said the borough would not meet the Sept. 30 deadline to have the bond funding in place.
“There is a possibility to sign a letter of intent to move forward at the first September meeting and then introducing the bond ordinance simultaneously to that and having the funds available in late October,” he said. “I told them that would be the best we could do.”