Rep Smith: $30M from federal infrastructure bill will repair beaches in Bay Head, Ortley Beach

Jean Mikle

Asbury Park Press

About $30 million in funding from the federal bipartisan infrastructure bill will be used to shore up beaches in northern Ocean County, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith said Wednesday.

Smith said he received word that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would be receiving money for the beach repair project Wednesday.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Smith said.

He said the state — and possibly local municipalities — will have to contribute some money to the project. He was hopeful that some of the federal funding New Jersey has received for pandemic relief could be used to pay the state’s share of the beach replenishment project.

The $30.2 million in infrastructure funds represents 50% of the estimated project cost, Smith said. The state and local municipalities will have to make up the rest.

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In a letter sent earlier this month, Smith, R-N.J., had requested that the Biden administration funnel some money from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to the Corps for the northern Ocean project.

The Army Corps of Engineers told Smith in a phone call that his intervention was “perfectly timed,” according to a statement issued by the congressman’s office.

The money for improvements to beaches from Manasquan to Barnegat inlets is part of $966 million in infrastructure funds that will pay for Army Corps projects throughout New Jersey, according to a release by U.S. Sens. Robert Menendez and Cory Booker, both D-N.J.

“This is critical funding that will support projects across New Jersey which will protect communities from the devastating impacts of climate change and flooding, improve our rivers and waterways, and replenish our beaches,” Menendez said.

It seems unlikely that the Corps will be able to return to the area before fall.

Steve Rochette, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Philadelphia District, said earlier this month that northern Ocean County, from the Manasquan to Barnegat inlets, is eligible for a “renourishment” project this year.

A major beach replenishment project in the area was completed in 2019. The Corps commits to return for 50 years following completion of big projects, to renourish beaches.

Rochette said at the time that if the Corps received the funding for the project, it was unlikely to happen before fall, since there “is a considerable amount of work to get a contract ready for advertisement and there’s limited availability of dredging equipment that can do the work.”

Still, news that funding is available for the should please officials in Bay Head and Toms River. The Ortley Beach section of Toms River, as well as much of oceanfront Bay Head, suffered severe erosion last winter during a strong nor’easter. Watch the video above to see what the Bay Head beachfront looked like after last year’s storm.

Toms River paid Earle Asphalt more than $430,000 to truck in sand and spread it on the beach in Ortley last May, only to have some of the repaired areas eroded again during fierce Memorial Day weekend storm.

The township received reimbursement from FEMA for the work. After Memorial Day, Toms River was again forced to make repairs to beaches before the busiest part of the summer season.

“A significant portion of the bipartisan infrastructure bill that I voted for provides much-needed funds for coastal resilience to ensure we can continue to restore our shoreline and strengthen our beaches,” Smith said. “This critical funding for beaches from the Manasquan Inlet to the Barnegat Inlet will go a long way to repair the significant erosion resulting from intense storms and address serious safety concerns.”

In addition to the money for the northern Ocean project, $24.4 million is included for renourishment projects from Sandy Hook to Barnegat Inlet, and Sea Bright to Manasquan, and $128.7 million for construction and replenishment in Raritan and Sandy Hook bays and in Highlands. Also, $8 million is included to complete a feasibility study for a back bay flood control project in Ocean County.

Dredging and inlet damage repair in Barnegat Inlet is also funded in the infrastructure bill, with $922,000 set aside for that work.

“By receiving nearly $1 billion in federal funding to support critical infrastructure projects, our state will work to mitigate flooding, build resilient ecosystems, and protect communities from future extreme weather events,” Booker said.

Infrastructure money to help repair beaches in northern Ocean County (