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NJ towns innovating to save shore

Many aren’t waiting for help to come from US

Damage from Hurricane Sandy could be seen in Mantoloking, N.J. Many Jersey shore towns are considering new and costly ways to protect their shoreline.

Doug Mills/Associated Press/file 2012

Damage from Hurricane Sandy could be seen in Mantoloking, N.J. Many Jersey shore towns are considering new and costly ways to protect their shoreline.

BRICK, N.J. — More than five months after Hurricane Sandy roared through, destroying hundreds of houses and damaging thousands more, Brick no longer has dunes on its beaches.

Instead, it has piles of hastily-arranged sand serving as emergency barriers that are extremely vulnerable to the surf.

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So when Mayor Stephen Acropolis emerged from a meeting Thursday with New Jersey environmental officials who told him a federal beach-replenishment project probably would not take place in Brick until next year, his resolve to have the town do something on its own hardened.

Brick is one of many Jersey towns considering new and costly ways to protect their shoreline following Sandy. Some are turning to sand-filled fabric tubes that form the base for new dunes. Others are looking at expanding protective rock walls or so-called groin fields, rock piles placed offshore. Many towns are paying for the work themselves.

‘‘We’re sitting out here naked, with no dunes,’’ Acropolis said. “I call them sand castle piles. You get a full moon high tide and they’re gone.”

Earlier this week, Brick’s township council explored the idea of placing a geotube, a huge sand-filled tube, covering it with sand and planting dune grass atop it to form the basis of a new dune system. After hearing about the delay in the federal beach-widening project, Acropolis predicted the council would be even more supportive of the $7.5 million project, for which Brick would probably have to borrow money.

It would join its neighbor Mantoloking in using the tubes to help rebuild dunes. The strategy has been used in other Jersey shore towns, including Ocean City, Atlantic City, and Sea Isle City.

Homeowners in Bay Head, on the other side of Mantoloking, got permission from the state to expand a rock wall, paying for it themselves. The project will extend an existing 4,500-foot wall by 1,300 feet.

In Avalon, the council agreed Wednesday to study beach protection technology including a groin field. The offshore rocks would have gaps large enough to let water and sand flow through but small enough to blunt the force of large waves and storm surges.

“It is our responsibility to examine innovative ways to provide a greater level of protection for our community while preserving our beaches and dunes that often take the brunt of significant coastal storms,”said Mayor Martin ­Pagliughi.

The mayor said Avalon has paid for seven beach-replenishment projects without federal help since 2005, although the US Army Corps of Engineers supplemented that work with emergency fill projects.

In January, Avalon completed its most recent replenishment project, paid for by the federal government. It restored the beaches to the condition they were in before Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy in October.

The work is crucial in Avalon, on a barrier island between two inlets where shifting sands constantly change the shape and width of the beaches.

Longport, a well-to-do resort community south of Atlantic City, has long resisted sand dunes in part because they interfere with cherished waterfront views, but it is changing its mind and applying for federal funding to build dunes. Officials there were swayed by the performance of a small, four-block stretch of experimental dunes that kept sand off the streets behind it, while much of the rest of nearby roads were inundated during Sandy.

Mayor Nicholas Russo said simply, “I don’t think we have much of a choice.”

Brick could start work on its geotube project right away; it included the estimated $7.5 million cost in its budget.

The township’s oceanfront was annihilated by the storm.

Acropolis says work needs to start as soon as possible.

“The new hurricane season starts in two months,” he said. “We’re going to have the same issue if another hurricane comes through — probably worse. At least last year, we had the dunes to wear down some of the storm surge. Now we don’t.”

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