STONE HARBOR - At the Aug. 3 Stone Harbor Borough Council meeting, municipal Administrator Robert Smith told the governing body they needed the services of a “heavy hitter.”
Smith was referring to the crisis facing the borough, as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reaffirmed its interpretation of federal law that prohibits the use of federal funds to mine sand from Hereford Inlet for beach replenishment projects.
“The stakes are high,” Smith said.
No one disagreed with that appraisal.
Many of the county’s engineered beaches depend on periodic hydraulic replenishment projects conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and sponsored largely with federal dollars. None are more dependent than the beaches of Stone Harbor.
The borough’s only natural accumulation of sand is in protected areas at the southern end, the Point. This leaves the borough unable to move its sand around in back-passing projects that have helped neighboring Avalon.
Stone Harbor needs a return to the exemptions that Fish and Wildlife routinely gave before 2016. To get that, they need someone who navigates these regulatory waters “every day, all day" to “lead the charge,” Smith said.
While the borough is putting the specifications of a request for proposal (RFP) together, some council members are becoming concerned about capital spending projects that might take away from debt funding the borough may need for beach efforts if federal funds are not available.
Smith said that the proposed RFP would be ready for council action at the Aug. 17 meeting. Time is of the essence since the next cycle of federal beach replenishment is scheduled for late 2021 or early 2022.