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STONE HARBOR - The success of expensive recent back bay dredging and oceanfront beach replenishment projects in Stone Harbor were tested recently as the borough looked at how well the improvements from those projects have held up 18 months to two years later.

On Feb. 19, Stone Harbor Borough Council received two reports from Dr. Stewart Farrell of the Stockton University Coastal Research Center focused on the current state of seven back bay lagoons and the borough ocean shoreline. 

Review of Seven Bayshore Lagoons

From November 2016 to February 2017, Stone Harbor completed sediment dredging all of its bayside lagoons. Ocean Coastal Consultants, the prime contractor for the dredging project, provided survey data at the project’s completion.

A second post-dredging survey was conducted by the Coastal Research Center in December 2018. Its purpose was to determine what changes had occurred and what new problems may have developed.

Farrell’s report found the lagoons in “good shape” with minimal new material collection at the entrance to some of the lagoons. Color-coded maps of each of the lagoons reinforced the overall message; the lagoons have fared well since the dredging.

Farrell noted that sediment is beginning to accumulate in the “entrance throats” of most of the lagoons but the rate of sedimentation is low and does not present current problems. Farrell said the inner basins of the lagoons remain at the level they were after dredging, with some even slightly deeper than they were at the conclusion of the dredging project.

The report noted that the “Great Channel bay front depths did not show any shoaling tendencies.” It went on to note that the “Great Channel appears to be migrating toward the developed bay shore in Stone Harbor.”  Measurements showed that “some bulkheads now have 15 feet of water at their bases.”

The final analysis concluded: “There are no zones of concern thus far, but the entrance areas need surveillance for continued mud deposition in the future.” 

The Condition of Municipal Beaches

Beginning in February 2017, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers placed almost 400,000 cubic yards of sand on Stone Harbor’s southern beaches from 105th to 123rd streets. That sand was taken from Hereford Inlet borrow areas. An additional 320,000 cubic yards of sand from Townsend's Inlet was placed on the borough’s north-end beaches from 80th to 105th streets.

The Coastal Research Center report to borough council showed changes to the sand volume and shoreline following the beach replenishment project.

The report was welcome news to the borough. For the most part, the shoreline did not change significantly and in some places, it advanced seaward. The report stated: “Since the October 2017 survey, the annual change was just over 46,562 cubic yards of sand lost from the system.” This is following the addition of almost 750,000 cubic yards during the replenishment.

Farrell noted that the losses the report documented “appear relatively minor when compared to the three years following Hurricane Sandy (2014 to 2017).” He concluded that “this was a relatively good year for the borough beaches.” 

Hereford Inlet Controversy

Farrell saved much of the report’s space to conclusions for voicing strong opposition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service position that federal law, specifically the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) of 1982, does not allow federal funds to be used to borrow sand from Hereford Inlet. 

Farrell said that attempts to get Fish and Wildlife to alter the boundaries of the CBRA defined area, an attempt to free up borrow areas just outside the inlet, also failed.

During the most recent beach replenishment, state and borough funds were used for the southern beaches that did receive sand from Hereford Inlet.

Farrell said the periodic maintenance and federally funded replenishments have “brought the borough’s beaches to a higher level of storm protection.” Farrell saw the Fish and Wildlife interpretation of CBRA as incompatible with scientific survey results.

“This is a closed system,” Farrell told council. The sand coming from the inlet is returned to the inlet, Farrell said. “Scientifically it makes no sense not to take sand from the inlet" for the borough’s beach projects.

The report urged that Stone Harbor “act forcefully and in concert with the City of North Wildwood and the Borough of Avalon to seek the restoration of federal agencies’ ability to access the Hereford Inlet borrow zone for major shore protection projects.”

To contact Vince Conti, email vconti@cmcherald.com.

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