The tide had finally pulled back Monday, and the storm drains did their job, clearing the way for New Jersey state officials to stand for the cameras and again call for the federal government to put more sand on the beaches.
On the northern reach of the state’s coast, hit so hard by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, towns wrecked three years ago barely escaped major damage this time. The latest storm scoured away the beach in front of a four-mile-long steel sea wall, hastily installed by the Corps of Engineers to protect a rebuilt highway.
There is hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of East Coast dredging and shore protection work still to be done after Sandy, and the hits keep on coming. Demand for equipment is so high that the Corps and dredge companies cannot afford to keep dredges on station to patch smaller holes in the defenses.
Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company in December pulled its dredges off the final phases of a $128 million replenishment on New Jersey’s Long Beach Island, promising to return and finish in May as per its contract. New Jersey environmental commissioner Bob Martin raised hell with the company and the Corps, and in return got an offer to bring back the 315’x59’x28’4” Great Lakes dredge Liberty Island for 15 days this winter.
That was not good enough, said Martin, who in a letter to the Corps’ North Atlantic Division commander Brig. Gen. William H. Graham complained the Corps’ own contract procedure “gives your contractors unilateral authority to manage the contracts entirely in their own best interests.”
A day after Gov. Chris Christie flew in from his presidential campaigning, declared a state emergency, and flew back to New Hampshire, he was denying there was serious flood damage from the storm. But on the southern coast from Atlantic City to Cape May, it was the turn of towns to see flooding worse than they had in Sandy, with record storm tides at Cape May and Delaware, and water in streets and homes.
Meanwhile, Martin and Lieutenant Gov. Kim Guadagno were in front of that steel wall Monday, basically begging the Corps of Engineers to start a new beach replenishment project there. The state is far enough along in securing construction easements – a prerequisite for the Corps to start work – that new beach fills should start this year, Martin said.