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Hugh Merkle Team - COMPASS RE

Beach Replenishment Planned For Spring On Seven Mile Beach

Posted January 30th 2023

By Dave Coskey

The numbers related to tourism in New Jersey are staggering. Even during the downturn in travel of the pandemic, to say the role that tourism plays in the state’s economy is robust is an understatement.

For example, in 2021, at the height of the pandemic, 92.3 million visitors pumped $37.3 billion into New Jersey’s economy. The tourism dollars in 2021 represented almost 3% of the state’s total economy – a number that translates into one in 20 jobs in all of New Jersey being supported by tourism. And in 2021, the contribution of tourism reduced state and local taxes by the equivalent of $1,400 in tax savings per household in the state. Sobering numbers.

Early on, New Jersey and its founding fathers discovered the value of its 141 miles of pristine oceanfront beaches.

That’s one of the reasons why beach-fill projects, like the one scheduled this spring for Avalon and Stone Harbor, are so vitally important. It’s easy to point to the real estate values along coastal communities, which are lazy talking points, as the sole driver for the need to preserve the beach front. That’s certainly a factor, but it’s misleading to not account for the potential of lost tourism revenue should those beaches be lost.

On more than one occasion, Avalon Mayor Martin Pagliughi has pointed out that on any given morning you can stand on either causeway at 7:30 and see lines of contractors, electricians, plumbers and a host of other trade workers streaming into town. The mayor is quick to point out they make that daily trek for one reason: “There is sand on the beach.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced in mid-January the awarding of a contract exceeding $28 million for dredging and beach replenishment intended to protect the beaches of Avalon and Stone Harbor.

The expectation is for roughly 695,000 cubic yards of sand to be pumped from Townsends Inlet onto the Seven Mile Beach beginning about mid-March, with a completion date anticipated in time for the summer season, Mother Nature permitting. That takes into consideration operations 24 hours a day without significant weather or mechanical delays.

This is a hydraulic beach-fill project, part of a 50-year agreement with the federal government that takes place once every three years. It should not be confused with efforts in between those years that are scheduled, conducted and financed by local communities, such as back-fill projects. According to Avalon Borough Manager Scott Wahl, “This will end up being a significant beach-fill project for the Seven Mile Beach.” The last project of this kind occurred in the fall of 2019.

Wahl made sure to point out the key roles played by politicians in making these kinds of projects happen in a fashion that’s financially possible for local municipalities. Among those highlighted by Wahl were U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, Sen. Robert Menendez and Sen. Cory Booker. Longtime U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo was a major supporter of New Jersey’s beach communities. There was some concern when he decided to step down two years ago, but it appears that Van Drew, a Cape May County resident, has picked up where LoBiondo left off.

Funding for the project is shared by federal, state and local governments. This project is funded 65% by federal funds and 35% locally. Of that 35% local amount, 75% is funded by the state and 25% is funded by the local communities. With fuel and labor costs on the rise, the cost for projects such as this are always a concern.

The goal is to reinforce prime erosional zones in both Avalon and Stone Harbor. In Avalon, that will be from 8th to 17th streets, while in Stone Harbor it extends from 90th to 120th streets. It’s important to note that Stone Harbor has a greater need at this time because it was not reinforced during the last fill. All sand is expected to come from Townsends Inlet, which will require an obviously long pipe run to carry the sand to the south end of Stone Harbor.

Officials in Avalon are also excited by the discovery of an unexpected sand resource offshore between 12th and 15th streets that has the potential to come ashore in the future and replace sand on the beaches naturally on its own. “It’s something that we’ve just learned about,” Wahl said, “but we’re excited by the potential.”

Social media channels were abuzz in November and December when both towns were forced to close certain beach paths following storm damage. Many wondered, “Do we have any beach left?” Thanks to the hard work that takes place all year in local communities, the answer is a resounding yes!

The Hugh Merkle Team - COMPASS Office: 609-368-9100
374 96th Street, Stone Harbor
info@HughMerkle.com
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