Approximately six months after superstorm Sandy battered the Jersey Shore, a slew of restoration projects by the Army Corps of Engineers are getting underway. For a status report, NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider spoke with Army Corps Project Manager Keith Watson.
Soon after Congress approved the Sandy relief package, the Army Corps began the repair and restore phase of projects at the Shore, said Watson, adding that some had already started before the hurricane hit, in areas like Brigantine, Absecon Island, Avalon and Stone Harbor.
“The communities that were fortunate to have these projects received very limited damage during the storm as compared to areas that did have damage,” Watson pointed out. “So we are out there now repairing the project replacing the beach and dunes to what they were before the storm and then restoring them to the full design capacity of these projects.”
Each project is a storm reduction project, consisting of dunes, designed in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), said Watson.
Under the Sandy Relief Act, Watson said the Army Corps of Engineers is tasked with three distinct missions: 1. to repair existing projects that were damaged, 2. to restore damaged areas, and 3. to construct new projects in authorized areas.
“So we are preparing to move out and start projects in those areas as soon as possible. There are a lot of hurdles to go through before we can get there,” he said.
He added that environmental studies will have to be performed before construction can begin. The results of those studies will be included in a report to Congress due May 1.
“The Corps is looking to build projects that can be sustainable for the future and to incorporate any aspects of a sustainable project such as incorporating sea level rise per the environmental study,” explained Watson. “The Relief Act actually mandated that we go through and conduct these studies. So we’re moving out as fast as we can but we need to get that guidance after that May report to figure out how to move forward on those areas.”
Asked if the sequester will have any impact on the projects, Watson said “repair and restore” funds were included in the first part of the bill and have already been appropriated. But the construction funds necessary for building in areas that do not have existing projects, is another matter.
“We expect to have the guidance to come out in May or June to allow us to move forward and fund those projects to complete the construction. But right now, we don’t have that guidance or the way forward at the moment.”