Mon04242017

Last updateThu, 20 Apr 2017 10am

Features

Leave Our Beaches Alone

Beach ConservationAt Monmouth University and within the surrounding community, we have a responsibility towards something much bigger than ourselves. Living where we do in New Jersey, we have an obligation to protect the ocean and the local beaches that surround us. When summer ends and tourists leave, the local community members must stand up for the rights and protection of our beloved beaches.

Living less than two miles from the coast, it is hard to believe that Monmouth students can forget about the wellbeing of our beaches. Yet as usual, winter drives us from the beaches to the warmth of our homes. Again, we prove the saying is true: out of sight and out of mind.

At the end of last semester, members of the Monmouth University Surf Club were able to leave the comfort of their homes and get back to the beach.  An organization called the Surfer’s Environmental Alliance (SEA) hosted a beach grass planting event along the beaches of Long Branch. 

“For the beach grass planting we walked along the Long Branch boardwalk putting in new bundles of sea grass in the many empty spaces that were left after construction of the boardwalk finished up,” said senior Surf Club member Zack Karvelas.

Karvelas continued, “I want to make more of an effort to participate in the preservation and protection of our precious ocean. It’s important to be aware of the issues surrounding our ocean and beaches, especially for us Monmouth students who go to school at the beach.”

The SEA is a great local organization to support because they always have the latest information about what is happening to the beaches. In this case, the beach grass planting event was just one way that the SEA can contribute to beach conservation.  In other cases, the SEA  works with the government on beach replenishment projects. However, the government-funded projects usually involve cranes and dump trucks rather than just a shovel and bale of beach grass.

 In the last year, local towns like Long Branch and Deal have been going through the beach replenishment process. Beach replenishment starts with the transfer of foreign sand or sediment to a new location. In this case, the state of New Jersey has authorized sand to be pumped onto beaches stretching from Deal and into Long Branch.

Of course, this is not the first we are hearing of these projects. According to NJ.com, “More than $1 billion has been spent on beach replenishment efforts in New Jersey over the last three decades… That money has paid for the placement of roughly 120 million cubic yards of sand on the state’s beaches, an amount that could fill…MetLife Stadium 60 times.”

The projects stack up and are seemingly never ending for locals of a beach community.  However, local organizations like the SEA exist to keep track of these projects and help to rework their efficiency. Richard Lee,Executive Director of the SEA, has followed replenishment procedures closely since the inception of his organization.

In many cases, the state will authorize these projects, get funding and after they are done, a storm will come up the coast.  Within a year, many of these ‘replenished’ beaches are back to the way they looked in the first place.

Lee states, “Sand is always going to travel.  So, it is really not a sustainable practice that has long lasting results, it’s all more short term.”

The SEA has served as the mediator between angry community members and The Army Corps of Engineers.  Both parties are interested in beach preservation, but have clashing views.

Richard Lee added, “[The SEA] had a major impact on how the [most recent] project was done.  We had [The Army Corps of Engineers] change the profile of the project.”

Lee along with the SEA compromised with The Army Corps of Engineers.  The project profile stated that every 20 feet of additional sand pumped, the workers would have to implement a 1-foot drop off.  This was an idea that the SEA brought to the table as the project was planned.  The goal is to allow the beaches to naturally decline, rather than drop right off.

“This was a more natural way for them to work and this is how the waves and beaches come back,” said Lee.

Professor John Tiedemann  has been an Ocean County local for more than 40 years. He is the head of the Marine Biology department at Monmouth University and has witnessed change along our coasts firsthand.

According to Tiedemann, “The biggest issue with dredging [beach replenishment] is finding an appropriate location for disposal of the dredged material.  If the material is clean it should be considered for beneficial use; if it is contaminated, it must be handled as a waste material and disposed of in an environmentally acceptable manner.”

Coincidentally, this issue reared its ugly head as Deal began beach replenishment on Roosevelt Avenue nearly one year ago.  According to CBS New York, “Residents have taken action in Monmouth County, New Jersey after witnessing unauthorized dumping on their beach.” 

A member of a local beach watchdog group first spotted the dump truck on Roosevelt and posted pictures to social media sites.  Almost immediately community members responded and questioned Agate Construction Company who was contracted for the project.

On Feb. 22nd, Lee received a call from a local community representative about the illegal sediment dumping on Roosevelt Avenue.  Lee stated that he immediately called his associate at the Army Corps of Engineers, “Within an hour or two they sent the dump truck back down and removed the sediment on Roosevelt.”

CBS New York also included a statement from The Army Corps of Engineers: “The contractor was ordered immediately to stop work and begin removing the material out of the surf zone and relocating it upland until it could be properly disposed as is required.”

Lee and the SEA have had a very productive relationship with the Army Corps of Engineers and the state of New Jersey officials.  “You have to be persistent.  Obviously, we don’t want the project [to occur], but we have to work to save as much as we can,” said Lee.

Even with the SEA’s impact on this current project they still need help. “People who don’t know, see us win one battle, but forget about the whole war,” said Lee.  The government has fully funded this last project and judging from years passed, this seems to be the trend. 

Lee, the SEA, and New Jersey taxpayers especially are wondering where all the money is coming from.  “There have been serious cost overruns.  So, when the money runs out, maybe we win the battle through attrition. Until then, we need to expand our influence, gain membership and keep up with the outside the box solutions,” said Lee.

Membership is key.  Currently, the SEA is planning more events like the beach grass planting in Long Branch.  In addition, Lee has recorded rangefinder data in regard to sand movement along recently replenished beaches.These events give community members ways to help out and gain firsthand knowledge about the situation.  Also, the events provide the SEA with crucial data to bring to the Army Corps of Engineers before they start a project.

Locals, students, surfers and visitors alike must simply be aware of the envirnment around them.  There is a disconnection between how we feel about nature and how we look at and treat our beaches.  To make sure we get the best out of our tax dollars and to get the best out of our beaches, we must be support organizations like the SEA.                 

Helping can mean attending an event, giving a suggestion, donating money or simply being aware.  If one battle can be won after a conscious observer calls in wrongdoing, then we are that much closer to finding a sustainable solution to keep our beaches strong for the future.

IMAGE TAKEN from pexels.com

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