Major beach replenishment projects are getting underway along New Jersey's northernmost and southernmost oceanfront.
But not all of the projects will include protective sand dunes that worked so well during Superstorm Sandy, even though many places that did not have the dunes when the storm hit sustained damage.
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The reason: Congress only agreed to fund restoring the beaches to their approved pre-Sandy designs.
New Jersey is asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reconsider and add dunes to the project, but for now, they are not part of the Monmouth County work.
New Jersey Department of Environmental protection Commissioner Robert Martin said the federally funded projects, totaling nearly $96 million, are part of the state's ongoing efforts to better protest the coast from future storms.
"These two projects are critical toward our goal of constructing a statewide coastal protection system that will protect lives and property against future weather events such as Superstorm Sandy," he said.
Larry Hajna, a DEP spokesman, said both projects are being rebuilt to better conditions than existed when Sandy hit; the work authorizes the beaches to be upgraded to the condition the Army Corps determined they needed to be in order to be fully protective of the shoreline.
"When rebuilt to design specifications, the Monmouth beaches are going to have much more sand on them than the day before Sandy hit," he said.
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said dunes are critical to protect the coast.
"We are glad the Army Corp and the DEP are replenishing Monmouth's beaches; however unless we restore our natural dune systems all this time and money will be wasted," he said. "Dunes are vitally important when it comes to protecting our coast against beach erosion, providing habitats for all types of species, and protecting property from storms and storm surges. Allenhurst was hard hit by Hurricane Sandy because they did not have dunes. We cannot rebuild the shore smarter and better without building dunes."
Gov. Chris Christie has said New Jersey will add dunes along its entire 127-mile coastline. But some places are resisting, including court challenges from Margate, the owners of Jenkinson's Boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach, and individual Long Beach Island homeowners. Some homeowners in Bay Head and Mantoloking want to be exempted from the dunes proposal, and have raised $5 million to build their own protective rock wall.
Not all of Monmouth County needs dunes, Hajna said. Sections, including part of Long Branch, are protected by a natural bluff. Work is starting north of Asbury Park in Allenhurst, Loch Arbour and Deal. Other parts of the county already have some dunes, including Bradley Beach, which used discarded Christmas trees to catch sand and create dunes.
Beach widening started Thursday afternoon in Cape May County, where sand pumping began in the south end of Ocean City. It will include a dune 13 feet above sea level. That project also will include the Strathmere section of Upper Township, and Sea Isle City with 15-foot dunes.
Other work is due to start soon on Long Beach Island in Long Beach Township, Ship Bottom, Beach Haven and a small section of Surf City. Work also will soon begin at the northern Ocean County peninsula between the Manasquan and Barnegat Inlets, including Point Pleasant Beach, Bay Head, Mantoloking, Brick, Toms River, Lavallette, Seaside Heights, Seaside Park and Berkeley.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC